UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal and executive vice chancellor Alison Galloway sat down on April 14 with student media organizations to discuss issues facing the university. City on a Hill Press, KZSC, SCTV, TWANAS and The Fish Rap Live! touched on the topics of decentralization and the $500 million cut to the UC system.
City on a Hill Press: At the UC Board of Regents meeting in March, you said if the state legislature ends up cutting $1 billion from the UC system, “some fundamental assumptions have to be thrown out.” In regards to UCSC, what assumptions are you referring to?
Blumenthal: I really don’t believe that the campus can responsibly take cuts of that magnitude and still maintain the kind of student experience that you’ve come to expect. I think that the responses will have to be systemic — there will have to be a major effort to bring additional money into the system, and that’ll have to be done on a systemwide basis. I think in the short run, it’ll probably lead to significant fee increases. I don’t see any other choice … A billion-dollar cut to UC really is Armageddon, and the way you deal with Armageddon is with really radical solutions.
SCTV: On April 5 [Gov.] Jerry Brown said “the university is an engine of wealth creation.” I’d like to get your response to that idea.
Blumenthal: I completely agree with that. Let me limit my response to California. California is a knowledge-based economy — there’s a lot of farming, but a lot of California’s economy has a lot to do with intellectual property, creating things, whether it’s Hollywood or IP. We really need an educated populace in order for that to happen. It’s true that for every dollar invested in UC, the long run repays that investment many times over. It’s a great investment for the state of California. The reason they don’t do it is because they need the money now, and they’re not so worried about the future. I think it’s short-sighted.
CHP: Regarding the decentralization plan, where all the campuses will pay a flat tax to UCOP instead of paying them funds and getting funds back — this will probably be more beneficial to smaller campuses rather than larger campuses. Could you comment on that?
Blumenthal: It’s a little more complicated than that … For every different color of money that came to the system, like the mafia, they would take a piece of the action off the top, and it was a different piece and percentage based on the color (health, lab, state, student, federal money). They used a complicated formula to do that. Generally, they took more money from state general funds than from medical centers. But if you look at the total budget for UC, the total state funded budget for UC next year under Jerry Brown is $2.4 billion. But the total budget of UC, if you include medical centers and all that, is closer to $20 billion. A flat tax on all expenditure is going to be advantageous to campuses like Santa Cruz, which are more dependent on state funds, as opposed to campuses like UCLA for example, where a large part of their operation is a huge medical center.
KZSC: With the increase in student fees, what is the outlook for incoming freshmen next year? There’s the possibility that they won’t be able to apply because they can’t pay, and with the removal of more grant programs, how can they enter a UC?
Blumenthal: First the good news — Cal Grants have been preserved in the budget at the federal level, although as you probably know from reading the papers, there was a push by some to severely limit them … We have at UC the Blue and Gold Program, which guarantees that students with a household income of less than $80,000 don’t pay fees. They should not be concerned. The people who are really hurt by fee increases are people in the middle class.
KZSC: Just going off availability for classes, there was a proposal to cut the class time to 60 minutes, down from 70. Is this correct … [and] was the purpose to save revenue or to increase availability?
Galloway: It was largely to increase availability, because it would give us an extra slot in the day in which students could get a class. One of our problems is we have so few large lecture halls, so it’s difficult to have the large classes which preserve the smaller classes. Another slot would help us move enough students through so they could all get into a class.
KZSC: What do you think the potential benefits and downfalls are to this plan?
Galloway: Benefits would be students getting into classes that they need. Less delays in their progress to their degree. Downsides are pretty obvious — if you have less time in class, you’re going to get less out of the class. It’s frustrating as a faculty member when you have a certain amount of material you have to get through. We’re teaching a semester’s worth of material in a quarter. It’s hard to do in the first place.