Budget Update to Students
Chancellor Block provides an update on the fiscal challenges facing UCLA.
I know you are well aware of the fiscal challenges facing UCLA. But I want to assure you that the top priority for all of us is protecting the excellence, accessibility and affordability of your UCLA education.
The reality is that we have suffered an unprecedented series of cuts in state funding and are headed for another tough year. Across the campus, we are implementing cost-saving measures and taking steps to boost revenues. All parts of the campus are included.
Some of the cuts we’ve sustained are permanent, so we must look at restructuring and streamlining in order to maintain the excellence of UCLA. While these efforts are designed to cope with financial realities, I believe they will also result in a leaner, more focused university.
Meanwhile, we continue to lobby aggressively for the restoration of state funding. I spent part of last week in Sacramento, reminding elected officials how critical UCLA is to Californians’ quality of life and how much our students need and deserve a world-class education. I’ll be back there in April, reinforcing that message.
Other UCLA officials, along with alumni and friends, are also participating in advocacy efforts. On March 19, our office of State Government Relations will hold a “UCLA Day,” when advocates will meet with legislators in their district offices to tell personal stories about UCLA’s critical importance to the state. Anyone can be an advocate, and we need as many voices as possible on UCLA’s behalf. I encourage you to join the effort by signing up at http://www.advocacy.ucla.edu/getinvolved.html. Your perspective is important.
Now I want to address some issues that I know are of particular concern to you. First, I understand that it is critical for you to get the classes you need in order to pursue your intellectual interests and graduate on time. Despite the budget cuts, we are working very hard to maintain the number of seats needed in each course, even if fewer sections are offered and class sizes are larger.
To that end, I supplied $7 million in bridge funding this year and will provide more than $10 million next year to cover the cost of lecturers and teaching assistants — positions that would otherwise be lost because of the state budget cuts. I understand the critical role of lecturers and teaching assistants, both to graduate students, who serve in those capacities, and to undergraduates, who depend on them. These funds come from our reserves and are intended to cover the cost of sustaining necessary levels of enrollment, but they are available only temporarily.
I know you are concerned, too, about fee increases. So am I. None of us wanted fees to rise, but the Regents had few options in meeting the basic needs of the campuses. The increases were necessary to offset cuts in the funding required for our basic operations and to provide financial aid for the neediest students. One-third of the revenue from the increases goes toward financial aid, including the UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, which covers UC fees for students whose annual family income is less than $60,000. That figure will be raised to $70,000 next year.
In addition, the 10 UC campuses are joining together in Project You Can to raise $1 billion in the next four years for student support.
On our own campus, our Bruin Scholars Initiative, launched last year, is exclusively for undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships. Its goal is to raise $500 million by June 2013.
I also am keenly aware of the rising costs of campus housing. Our Housing & Hospitality Services department will most likely be able to cap next year’s housing increase at three percent. Furloughs there are saving $1.8 million, and 11 full-time positions have not been filled. Yet operating hours, menu selections and response times have not changed.
In all of these issues, we try very hard to respond to your feedback. For example, last fall, when Night Powell had to begin closing at 11 p.m. because of budget cuts, you let us know how much that affected your ability to study. So USAC, a generous donor and I supplied the funding to re-open it.
These challenges are frustrating, I know, but we still have much to celebrate. We continue to attract more freshman applications than any other university — more than 57,000 for next fall. UCLA remains a world-class university, because of our remarkable students, distinguished faculty and staff who contribute to the UCLA experience.
We will keep you apprised as more information becomes available, but we won’t know more from the state until May when a revised budget is released. You can always find current budget information at http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/campus-budget.aspx, where you also can submit your ideas and suggestions.
I am confident that by working together we will emerge from these difficulties an even greater institution.