Concerns about campus funding are being raised following the California Supreme Court decision ordering UC Berkeley to freeze fall in-person enrollment at 2020-21 levels.
The enrollment freeze will have wide-ranging implications not only for prospective students and city residents, but also current Berkeley students. In an initial press release about the enrollment cuts, campus stated it anticipates losing $57 million in tuition. More recently, campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said current estimates show financial losses are likely to surpass this number.
Such a significant budget deficit comes at more than just a financial cost.
“If we face a budget deficit as big as this, essentially everything is at risk,” said ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert.
Services that may be impacted include student services, such as libraries, recruitment and retention centers, academic advising and University Health Services.
Given the unprecedented nature of the enrollment freeze, campus is still unclear as to which particular services will be hit the hardest, Mogulof said. He noted that the campus will continue to prioritize the protection of the “academic core” and the student experience.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before at Berkeley …. across the UC … and, as far as we know, at any other university in our country,” Mogulof said in an email. “We are moving as quickly as possible and hope to have details about the extent of the financial impacts and how they will be addressed and/or mitigated as soon as possible.”
The ASUC Budget Committee, which Weichert chairs, has been in the process of making suggestions regarding which services can and should face cuts in funding, as well as where the limited funding should be allocated in the next budget cycle.
UCPD is at the top of the committee’s list for receiving less funding, Weichert said.
“This is something that makes sense outside of the context of a budget deficit, but makes even more sense if we are already trying to find ways to make up that money,” Weichert said.
Among services that should be prioritized are campus’s recruitment and retention centers, which are the “backbone” of ensuring diverse freshmen and transfer classes, according to Weichert. He added that diversity is especially important under the circumstances of the freeze, as many are worried about the potential decrease in the accessibility of a UC Berkeley education to low-income and first-generation students.
Although campus has never faced such a situation before, Weichert said current students have experienced firsthand what budget deficits look like.
For example, beloved campus libraries have faced budget cuts resulting in shorter hours, and thus a loss of late-night study areas, Weichert said.
“We are committed to keeping the campus community updated as we develop a clearer picture of the financial consequences of this unprecedented court decision,” Mogulof stated.