UC Berkeley has cut deficit in half over 1 year, chancellor announces

Ana Isabel Diaz/Staff

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UC Berkeley has cut its multimillion dollar deficit in half from fiscal year 2016 to fiscal year 2017.

At a Thursday meeting of the campus’s Academic Senate, Chancellor Carol Christ announced that the campus has made “excellent progress” in closing its deficit. The deficit decreased from $150 million in fiscal year 2016 to $77 million at the close of fiscal year 2017 — surpassing the campus’s goal of $110 million, Christ said at the meeting.

The campus aims to reach a deficit of $56 million by June 2018 by increasing revenue streams, according to Christ.

“The last several years have been hard ones for the campus,” Christ said at the meeting. “One of my goals is working with all of you and with the other important constituencies of the campus to rebuild community.”

At the meeting, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, chair of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Academic Planning and Resource Allocation, presented the senate with data showing that a staffing increase of 600 in Campus Shared Services, or CSS, from 2012-14 contributed significantly to UC Berkeley’s costs — a growth that was not offset by staffing declines in other parts of the campus.

CSS is a division of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Administration that was fully implemented in early 2015 to centralize administrative services such as payroll, hiring and expense reimbursement. The program was initially conceived to help reduce expenses, but it has faced extensive criticism from members of the UC Berkeley faculty.

“The centralization of administrative support services … has not been a success,” Christ said at the meeting. “Even in saying that, it is important to identify the problem as the system and not the people. It’s really critical not to devalue the extraordinary, dedicated staff that work for Berkeley.”

Figures presented by the committee also showed that in fiscal year 2017, 60 percent of campus spending on nonacademic salaries went towards central administration, while 24 percent went to colleges and schools, and 16 percent was allocated toward other administrative units, such as libraries.

“It’s very important that we offer good salaries,” Johnson-Hanks said. “But it is also true that our expenditures on salaries are growing faster than our revenues.”

Christ outlined six streams of revenue at the meeting: non-degree enrollment (such as UC Berkeley extension or summer sessions), self-supporting degree programs, increased contract and grant activity, increased entrepreneurial activity, monetization of real estate and philanthropy. Goals proposed by Christ include guaranteeing two years of housing for incoming freshmen and increasing diversity among student and staff.

During the meeting, Christ also said she wants to enhance the student experience at UC Berkeley by promoting internships and research opportunities, noting that underfunding student support, particularly graduate student fellowships, would compromise the campus’s “competitive relationship” with peer colleges.

“Too often, I believe Berkeley is thought of as a place where students survive, rather than where they thrive,” Christ said at the meeting. “We all wish different decisions had been made at previous points in our history, but now we have to work from where we are and move forward.”

Revati Thatte is the lead higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.