Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Feeling the Campus Cuts

I wanted to get some work done at the library before office hours this morning, so I hurried down to the Doe Library at about eight, only to find that these days, thanks to the cuts to the University of California’s budget, the main stacks don’t open until nine o’clock.  Berkeley obviously holds many other attractions for graduate students, faculty, and other researchers, but it’s a shame that at the state’s major research university hours of access to the research facilities that are the campus’ intellectual engine are becoming more restricted (as is the case with public libraries around the country). 

Some Californians might be disappointed that they can no longer even whine about funding the lazy, entitled, unmotivated, useless students who, in their fevered imaginations, populate the classrooms of the University of California system.  The state is steadily abandoning UC in material terms.  During the 2011-12 academic year, state general funds accounted for a mere 11% of UC’s total budget.  Core funds accounted for 27% of the budget, the UC medical centres for 27%, “other sales and services” for 19%, government contracts and grants for 18%, tuition and fees for 13%, private support for 7%, UC general funds for 3%, and ‘other sources’ for 2%.  The federal government is becoming a more important player than state government, largely through grants to science and engineering fields, and student fees now cover around half of the cost of education at UC.

State support, however small in numerical terms, is still important, both given that it helps to attract other sources of funding and in that it forces UC to maintain its public character and sustain its public mission.  UC is a pretty good deal for California, throwing nearly $14.00 back into the state for every dollar invested by the taxpayer.  The state disinvests from public higher education at its cost—UC is the third largest employer in the state, researchers are asking questions at the cutting edge of scientific, moral, and medical fields, and large-scale disinvestment has an adverse effect on the entire state economy. 

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