Pubdate: Tue, 29 Apr 2008
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2008 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Lisa Leff, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Leaders Issue Budget Warning

SACRAMENTO - In a rare show of unity, California's top higher
education officials on Monday warned that inadequate state funding is
bleeding the quality from one of the world's most celebrated college
and university systems.

The leaders of the University of California, California State
University and California Community Colleges predicted that a new
round of spending cuts would have dire consequences for their 142
campuses, from losing top-notch faculty to making a college degree too
expensive for some students.

"I really believe California is at a crossroads - a political,
educational, cultural, economic crossroads," CSU Chancellor Charles
Reed said. "Is the state going to dedicate its resources to invest in
young people's futures, invest in California's wherewithal, or

Along with most other state agencies, the three systems stand to lose
10 percent of their proposed annual budgets, or nearly $1.3 billion
among them, under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's spending plan for the
fiscal year that begins July 1.

The governor ordered the reductions to cope with a statewide deficit
he estimated last week would top $10 billion through June 2009, down
from an earlier estimate of $16 billion. His revised budget proposal
is due in mid-May.

UC Provost Rory Hume said the higher education systems have not
recovered from a series of deep budget cuts during the 1990s and again
in 2004. Because of that, he said they now face "a level of cuts that
is unprecedented in its cumulative effect."

The three leaders were in Sacramento on Monday to meet with
journalists and lawmakers. During a news conference, Hume, Reed and
Community College Chancellor Diane Woodruff said they would urge
legislators to raise taxes and fees to offset the proposed cuts.

Reed went one step further, saying he supports imposing a sales tax on
professional services such as those provided by lawyers and
accountants to raise revenue. He also said he thinks California's
prison system should be a prime target for lawmakers looking for
places to level the budget ax.

"California spends way too much money on its prison system," he

The state spent $10.1 billion of its general fund on its corrections
budget this year, compared with $13.9 billion for higher education,
including financial aid.

Lisa Page, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, said the governor remains
a champion of higher education and that state spending on public
universities and colleges had gone up 16 percent since he took office.
At the same time, student fees at UC have increased from $6,230 to
$7,347 and from $2,916 to $3,521 at CSU.

"He doesn't want to have to make these cuts. He doesn't want education
to have to keep going on this roller coaster ride," she said.

Although higher education always is the subject of intense lobbying
during the capital's annual budget talks, officials said they could
not remember the last time leaders from the three college systems had
come together to plead their cases.

Woodruff said the joint show of force reflects how intertwined the
systems are. Many CSU graduates begin their college careers at
community colleges, while many UC graduates start off as CSU students.

CSU is the nation's largest four-year system with 450,000 students,
while California's community colleges comprise the world's largest
college system, serving 2.6 million students each year.

"If (lawmakers) want to turn the economy around, now is the time to
invest in higher education, not cut it back," she said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin