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Spring 2003
Can We Afford Excellence?
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Bruin alumni serving in the state legislature talk about what’s necessary to maintain quality, preserve access and achieve greatness.

By Marina Dundjerski ’94
Photography by Kevin Graft

AS GOV. GRAY DAVIS AND THE STATE LEGISLATURE grapple with how to address California’s severe budget shortfall, expected to hit roughly $34 billion by the end of the next fiscal year, the University of California is faced with one of its most significant fiscal crises ever.

UC’s budget has been cut dramatically — cuts this year and next are expected to total $373.3 million. To counter cuts targeted at instruction, the UC Board of Regents voted in December 2002 to raise undergraduate student fees $135 per quarter, and UC is considering an additional increase of $270 per quarter for the 2003-’04 academic year.

At the same time, an estimated 700,000 additional students are projected to seek enrollment at California’s public higher-education institutions by the end of this decade. For UC, that means an influx of an additional 64,000 students — the equivalent of a combined UCLA and Berkeley campus — as the system fulfills its obligation under the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education to accept the top 12.5 percent of California’s graduating seniors who meet the minimum requirements for enrollment. For UCLA, the increase would be an additional 4,400 students.

This growth, however, far outpaces increases in education spending. Over the past several decades, state support for UC, as a percentage of the university’s budget, has been on the decline. Today, 22 percent of UCLA’s $2.7-billion operating budget comes from the state.

How will these cuts affect the overall mission of UC in general and UCLA in particular? Can California, in a time of serious economic downturn, afford a top-quality system of higher education? In conjunction with UCLA’s Government and Community Relations, UCLA Magazine invited Bruins now serving in the state Legislature to talk about what they believe is necessary, under these circumstances, to maintain quality and achieve excellence.

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2005 The Regents of the University of California