California Cuts Weigh Heavily on Its Colleges

Sharon Rieger's picture

The doors to the state’s newest medical school are already open, technically. A gleaming building with new labs is ready to house researchers and students. But when the state budget was approved last week, the plans to open the medical school at the University of California’s campus here were shelved for at least another year.

The compromise to close the state’s huge budget gap included cuts to state agencies of all kinds, but none were as deep as those to the state’s public colleges and universities. The state’s two systems were each cut by $650 million, and they each could lose $100 million more if the state’s optimistic revenue expectations do not materialize. For both systems, the $650 million is roughly a 20 percent cut of operating money from the state.

This fall, for the first time, the University of California will take in more money from student tuition than from state finances.

The state’s two-tier system has long been seen as a model of public higher education, with the University of California’s 10 campuses as major research hubs and the California State University’s network of 23 campuses graduating tens of thousands each year. But the cuts, which are the biggest in the state’s history, threaten to erode the system’s stellar reputation. 

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