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UC Berkeley asked to absorb $80M of Brown's $500M cut

UC Berkeley students protest a fee hike Sept. 24, 2009.ben.chaney/FlickrUC Berkeley students protest a fee hike Sept. 24, 2009.

University of California President Mark Yudof has set a target for the Berkeley campus to cut $80.8 million from its budget for the coming year, as the 10-campus university system struggles to come to terms with a $500 million reduction in funds proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. 

A cut of that magnitude would constitute 16.2 percent of the proposed $500 million total, representing a disproportionate share of the system-wide cut.

The budget targets – which university officials emphasize are provisional – are exposing a long-simmering issue in the UC system, which is just how equally the 10 campuses should be treated. On an even more fundamental level, it raises the question of how, or even whether, the state can afford to support 10 world-class research universities, including the opening of a new one in the Central Valley. 

UC Berkeley, often ranked as the world's leading public university, is being asked to absorb a larger share of the budget cuts, at least in part because it has the ability to raise more money than most other campuses from a range of sources. It is also able to generate revenue by attracting more foreign and out-of-state students, who are willing to pay higher tuition for the privilege of attending UC's flagship school.

But in some ways Berkeley is being penalized for its success. 

"My greatest fear is that Berkeley will be driven into lesser and lesser stature and excellence to shore up the existence of other campuses," UC Berkeley provost George Breslauer told California Watch. "The excellence of UC Berkeley, UCSF, UCLA and UC San Diego is something everyone should be proud of and share their glory, which most people do, and I don't want to see a regression to the mean."

Breslauer said that UCLA, which unlike Berkeley also had a medical school, is being asked to take a $96 million cut, and UC Davis a cut in the $70 million range. Breslauer stressed that the targets do not take into account any cuts that UC's Office of the President will be making. After those are factored in, he thinks the total amount Berkeley will end up cutting will be around $75 million – still a huge hit. 

"We are constantly fighting to make sure that redistribution (of funds generated by the campus) does not threaten our stature, the standard by which public higher education is judged in the world," he said.

Breslauer said that after a $75 million reduction, UC Berkeley will be receiving about $225 million in state support, down from $500 million in 2005. Berkeley's total budget is $1.8 billion.   

UC spokesperson Steve Montiel said that the percentages provided to the campuses are "being used as a starting point, and are considered approximate," in part because the actual funding level to UC is still unknown. Cuts in the Office of the President "could affect the campus targets," he said.  The Office of the President declined to provide the targets set for each of the 10 campuses. 

The budget crisis is highlighting the issue of whether Berkeley should be treated just like the other UC campuses. But in some cases Berkeley leaders have resisted being treated equally, an indication of the complexities of running a 10-campus system.

In the early 1990s, during another budget crisis, the Office of the President proposed giving a generous early retirement plan for professors at all UC campuses. Then-Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien threatened to resign over the plan, because he feared that Berkeley professors were more likely to get job offers from other universities, leading to an exodus of academic stars. Then-UC President David Gardner changed the plan to make it less generous for Berkeley professors.  

Last week, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Breslauer sent a message to the campus community, indicating the university hopes to save $30 million by implementing its "Operational Excellence" plan, which involves "restructuring and reducing manager ranks" on campus and improving purchasing procedures. It also announced that its "Campaign for Berkeley" fundraising drive will have raised $2 billion by this spring, towards a goal of $3 billion it hopes to reach in 2013.

"In general, fundraising has been and is strong in spite of a difficult economy," Birgeneau and Breslauer wrote. 

Successes like these represent a double-edged sword:  while they underscore Berkeley's enduring strengths, they also provide a justification, at least to some, for the campus to absorb a larger share of the budget pain being experienced by every public education institution in the state. 


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Filed under: Higher Ed, Daily Report


Comments are closed for this story.
xred123's picture
Berkeley has 16% of UC's students, it is getting 16% of the cut. How is this disproportionate? Let's see your math.
winsome1's picture
"My greatest fear is that Berkeley will be driven into lesser and lesser stature and excellence to shore up the existence of other campuses..." That's a very strange remark from UCB provost George Breslauer. "driven to lesser excellence"? Jesus, George.) Does this mean the downsize is planning to eliminate campuses? Will programs and faculty heads be rolling this time? To California Watch: Please be careful you don't become part of the problem by repeating UC's lies. The paragraph that begins "Last week, UCB Chancellor..." should be deleted altogether.
xred123's picture
Louis, given that you are a Berkeley grad and a Berkeley resident, are you really neutral on this issue? You sure seem to be using this soapbox to advocate in a misleading way for your alma mater and pit it against the 9 other UC campuses. Again, let's see your math to show that Berkeley's 16% cut is "disproportionate" or that it has a "larger share."
Moravecglobal's picture
UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau's real agenda. University of California Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau’s ($500,000 salary) eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means. A competent chancellor would have been on top of identifying inefficiencies in the system and then crafting a plan to fix them. Competent oversight by the Board of Regents and the legislature would have required him to provide data on problems and on what steps he was taking to solve them. Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up to $150 million of inefficiencies….until there was no money left. It’s not that Birgeneau was unaware that there were, in fact, waste and inefficiencies in the system. Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) engaged some expensive ($3 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization. In short, there is plenty of blame to go around. Merely cutting out inefficiencies will not have the effect desired. But you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. An opportunity now exists for the UC President, Board of Regents, and California Legislators to jolt UC Berkeley back to life, applying some simple oversight check-and-balance management principles. Increasing the budget is not enough; transforming senior management is necessary. The faculty, Academic Senate, Cal. Alumni, financial donors, benefactors await the transformation of senior management. The author, who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at University of California Berkeley, where he was able to observe the culture and the way senior management work. (Cal (UC Berkeley) ranking tumbles from 2nd best. The reality of University of California Berkeley’s (UC Berkeley) relative decline are clear. In 2004, for example, the London-based Times Higher Education ranked UC Berkeley the second leading research university in the world, just behind Harvard; in 2009 that ranking had tumbled to 39th place.) University of California, Berkeley in the news
TonyDaysog's picture
What if . . . just thinking out loud . . . what if several UC's privatize? For example: what if UCSF becomes a private institution? What if Hastings Law School becomes a private college, as well as Boalt, while the Berkeley campus surrounding Boalt remains public? What if UC Davis medical school privatizes? Might be worth looking into? Maybe . . . maybe not.

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