UC, students respond to cuts

Following $750 million in state budget cuts this year, UC Berkeley, the UC system and the legislature react

In the past few years, a large concern for students at UC Berkeley and across the country has been the increasing cost of attending college.

Tuition for University of California students has increased steadily over the last few years, and students face additional fee increases and cuts to campus services if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increases in November do not get passed.

UC Office of the President spokesperson Dianne Klein said the UC system has had to make severe budget cutbacks in the face of over $750 million in cuts within the last year.

“The situation is volatile and we are preparing for all kinds of scenarios,” Klein said. “The cutbacks have been painful, but we have been pressuring the legislature to not only not cut the budget, but to increase it.”

Legislative response has included the Middle Class Scholarship Act, which aims to provide financial assistance to families with incomes less than $150,000 and was introduced by California State Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, in February of this year.

The scholarships would be funded by closing a tax loophole that allows out-of-state corporations to choose how much they want to pay in taxes in California.

UC Berkeley also announced the creation of the Middle Class Action Plan in December of last year, which will require families who make between $80,000 and $140,000 to pay no more than 15 percent of their gross income in fees.

According to Jud King, the Director of the Center for Studies in Higher Education at Berkeley, the Middle Class Action Plan is a unique plan that may provide relief for families already struggling.

“It is the first of its kind at a public university,” King said. “Tuition has come to be a real burden, so those families need help with it.”

While plans such as these have sought to offset previous fee increases, further cuts may be on the horizon if Brown’s tax initiative on the November ballot does not pass.

In order to mitigate a $9.2 billion deficit through June 2013, Brown hopes to raise the sales tax and certain income taxes through the $7 billion ballot initiative.

The UC system will also need to continue to seek private funding, grants for research and gifts from corporations and may need to engage in a national campaign to rally support for the UC, said King.

According to King, if Gov. Brown’s tax initiative does not pass, one-fourth of the cuts will be in the university system, King said.

Klein added that there are only so many cuts the UC can make before it compromises the quality of the education that it offers.

“Unless a good fairy comes down and sprinkles cash on all of us, we are going to have to raise fees,” Klein said.
“A lot of people value education, but when it comes to supporting that, there is a disconnect.”

Klein and King both encouraged incoming and current students to learn about the current budget situation and to get involved in improving the situation by working with people on campus and on a broader level.

“You see what happens when students get involved. Change happens,” Klein said.

Students should continue to organize as they have done during past protests, King said.

“Keep pushing education right in the middle of the radar screen of the legislature and governor,” King added.
Past protests have included a March 5 protest in Sacramento, which involved thousands of protesters from UC Berkeley, other schools and across the state marching to Sacramento.

During the protest, approximately 120 protesters occupied the Capital building in Sacramento.