Budget Woes Continue to Plague California Colleges

The University of California system still faces serious cuts despite the budget deal.

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Last night's budget settlement in California is good news for the Golden State. In fact, it might be the most exciting news the state has heard since the Lakers won the NBA championship. But not everyone is celebrating.

The plan to close the state's $26.3 billion deficit includes some serious cuts in the California state university system. In response to upcoming budget shortfalls, University of California President Mark Yudof has declared a one-year financial emergency for the college system, expanding his authority to slash the system's budget, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

Yudof is expected to institute 4-to-10 percent pay cuts by September 1. He also said that university employees must agree to take from 11 to 26 unpaid days off—based on pay scale—or face significant layoffs. Those cuts, combined with higher tuition fees and lower admissions rates, will help the system handle a 20 percent decrease in state funding, Yudof said. But that announcement caused major protests from university employees, who do not believe the furloughs are necessary.

"The unions believe that the combination of wage cuts and tuition increases for the seventh year in a row will again enable the UC system to, in fact, make money on this deal," said Nora Hochman, an organizer for the Coalition of University Employees. "We think they have an obligation as a public university to use some of those resources to make up for the cuts."

Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that while the furloughs and cuts will seriously damage the university system now, the future of the state's colleges might be at even greater risk. Once money from the Obama administration's stimulus package stops flowing—and California has already spent a lot of its stimulus cash—California's university system might face some serious financial trouble.

"What is saving us in the short run could be setting us up for big problems in subsequent years," said Robert Turnage, assistant vice chancellor for budget at California State University.