To a large degree, research-driven innovation and an affordable college education have been the foundations of California's post–World War II vibrancy, driving both economic growth on a large scale and socioeconomic opportunity for countless individuals. As a leading public research university, UCLA has played a major role in the state's success.
The dream of a public higher education system in service to the state has been severely hampered by the 2011–12 state budget expected to be signed in Sacramento. Not only does the spending plan reduce funding to the University of California system by $650 million in the fiscal year starting July 1 — a cut of about 24 percent — but it also leaves open the possibility of additional reductions in January if state tax revenues fall short of projections. This comes on top of reductions over the past two decades that have brought state funding to a level below what was provided in 1998–99, when the UC system had 73,000 fewer students, more than halving per-student funding levels.
While the severe fiscal challenges facing the state are undeniable, this is nothing less than an abrogation of the state's responsibility to fund public higher education. While helping to solve a short-term budget crisis, it does a disservice to the state's long-term future by disinvesting in the research and the workforce that California needs to prosper.
At UCLA, we continue to take steps to save money, increase efficiency and generate new revenues through a campuswide restructuring effort designed to adjust to new funding realties. While we planned prudently and budgeted conservatively to absorb an anticipated $96 million reduction in state support in 2011–12, the state's new spending plan may necessitate additional measures. The exact amount of additional reductions in campus funding is not yet known. To generate revenue necessary to ensure the educational experience that students and their families deserve and expect, the UC Office of the President and members of the Board of Regents have said additional tuition increases may be inevitable.
The severe fiscal challenges facing the state are undeniable; however, further reductions in state support for higher education are unconscionable and unacceptable. I encourage students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of UCLA to continue advocating on behalf of the university. Email Governor Brown and your legislators by going to UCLA's advocacy site and make your voice heard.
Gene D. Block
June 29, 2011