To fund campus, state needs to pick up the slack

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: UC Berkeley succeeded in balancing the budget but still needs continual support from alumni, state

Illustration of coin with Oski being pulled into pieces
Alexander Hong/Senior Staff

With a deficit as hefty as $150 million, balancing the budget seemed to be a tough climb up a very steep hill. That’s why it’s so remarkable that UC Berkeley was able to not only balance its budget efficiently but also to do so a full year ahead of schedule.

In an interview with The Daily Californian’s editorial board, Rosemarie Rae, the vice chancellor of finance at UC Berkeley, emphasized that any decisions to balance the budget were made with students in mind. UC Berkeley spends the least amount of money per student per year compared to other highly ranked universities — not because it wants to, but because it simply has no other choice. Despite being stretched to the bone financially, the campus has made an impressive and commendable effort to maintain the quality of the education we receive as UC Berkeley students while balancing the budget.

Some of the solutions to whittle down the deficit were rather innovative; for example, the campus reduced administrative costs by simply refraining from filling empty positions once people had resigned. Expanding other classroom programs, such as the UC Berkeley Extension and graduate programs, brought in additional, much-needed tuition.

Alumni donors have also played a large role in buttressing UC Berkeley by contributing huge monetary gifts that’ll go toward much-needed amenities on campus. According to Rae, at least two anonymous donations will fully fund housing for transfer and graduate students, which are two student populations that have historically struggled to find housing in Berkeley. It’s inspiring to see alumni give back to their alma mater in such a transformative fashion.

Philanthropy isn’t new at UC Berkeley — for decades, people have donated money to have a shiny building or structure erected in their name. What’s disheartening, though, is that the campus now has to rely on philanthropy to fund things as basic as operational costs. While Chancellor Christ seems to be a whiz at bringing in donations, the campus really shouldn’t be relying on gifts for day-to-day operations. And all of those buildings that need to be retrofitted, let alone all of the deferred maintenance tasks? That comes out to roughly $2 billion. Alumni shouldn’t be the only ones digging into their wallets to prevent our campus from literally falling apart. 

To give credit where credit is due, the campus has announced its commitment to investing in hiring more faculty to support our consistently increasing student body. Rae also emphasized the campus’s effort to include student input in budget allocations.

UC Berkeley is the flagship campus of the UC system, yet it struggles to support its student body without making drastic cuts to already underfunded programs. Paying for higher education is already back-breaking for students — it’s ludicrous that despite our costly tuition, it’s still not enough to allow our school to function. So, for the umpteenth time, we turn to the state to ask: where’s our funding? 

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2019 opinion editor, Revati Thatte.