California's Public Colleges Face $1.4-Billion in New Budget Cuts

January 10, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown of California proposed a new round of budget cuts to public colleges on Monday, a total of $1.4-billion in cuts that may lead to reductions in university enrollments and sharply higher tuition at community colleges.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat in his second week in office, proposed cutting state support to each of California's university systems by $500-million to help close a state budget deficit in 2011-12. California State University would lose 18 percent of its state support, while the University of California would lose 17 percent.

The state's 112 community colleges would lose $400-million in state support, a 6.5-percent cut. Tuition at the two-year colleges would rise sharply under the proposal, to $36 per credit hour from $26 per credit hour.

The governor's budget plan follows a relatively good year for the universities, which received new state support in October. But the severity of this year's proposal, added to reductions over the past few years, could force public colleges to reconsider some of their highest priorities.

Under the proposal, the University of California would receive more money from tuition than from state support for the first time, said the system's president, Mark G. Yudof.

"With the governor's budget, as proposed, we will be digging deep into bone," Mr. Yudof said in a written statement. "The physics of the situation cannot be denied—as the core budget shrinks, so must the university."

Mr. Yudof warned in a Facebook message last week that new cuts could force the university to consider reducing the availability of financial aid, sharply cutting total enrollment, and eliminating limits on out-of-state students.

Under the governor's proposal, Cal State would once again be forced to reduce its enrollment in the fall and restrict the number of courses it offers to students, the system's chancellor, Charles B. Reed, said in a written statement.

The cuts may get worse. Mr. Brown's budget proposal assumes that California voters approve a series of tax increases later this year. If the voters reject those increases, colleges would be on the line for further cuts, Mr. Brown said on Monday.