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California… off a cliff June 22, 2009

Posted by gordonwatts in university.

Well… I used to think it Washington was the worst. It still is, but California is doing is best to take the crown. I’m talking about the budget of course.

Washington state legislature cut support for University of Washington 26%. That would have been the end of UW as I know it – and I guess the state legislature knew it too. To prevent that they allowed us to raise tuition on undergraduates by 30% over the course of two years (30%!!!). Which we will do. This is old news now – the reality came down at the end of April. Final budgets are being drawn up and they are every bit as bad as we were worried at the time. But the institution will survive.

Most states escaped such dramatic changes. I think only Nevada was going to be hurt as badly as we were. California was bad when I wrote that post – about 10%. What I didn’t realize was the 10% depended on a bunch of initiatives being passed that would raise various taxes. Apparently the complete political establishment (and a lot of people I know, including me) fooled themselves into thinking this was going to pass. Ops! I think the only budget related initiative that passed was one making sure the legislature didn’t give themselves a raise!

The upshot is going to be nasty. Berkeley’s chancellor just laid it on the line:

…the campus now facing a budget shortfall of around $145 million — "a shocking number," he said, more than twice the size of the deficit expected just six weeks ago…

…Birgeneau said all campus units will be asked to cut their budgets by an average of 20 percent over two years, instead of the 8 percent cuts expected as recently as mid-May. Staff who survive these contractions — and, the chancellor emphasized, "there will be eliminations of staff positions" — will see their paychecks shrink.

"We can all collectively expect wage reductions in the neighborhood of 8 percent," reported Birgeneau, adding that the formula could include some combination of furloughs and actual pay cuts.

Wow – 8% pay cut? That sucks. I’ve got a lot of friends in the Ca system. If only UW had some extra cash I’d say we should be off hunting there!! Too bad we will also have a multi-year hiring freeze.

To be fair, the Ca budget isn’t final yet. And it could be some of this is a warning shot at the legislature. But if it is anything like the Washington legislature, all the Ca university system will get back is a big ***ger. 🙂



1. Nick - June 22, 2009

The CA community college system is taking a beating as well. City College of San Francisco, a huge feeder school for the UC system, is cutting ~800 courses from their 9 800 course semester in the fall. Unfortunately the cuts include interesting science courses like intro to astronomy.

2. Julianne - June 22, 2009

I do wish they’d consider tiered pay cuts. As a full professor who bought a house more than a decade ago, I can afford to absorb a much larger pay cut than a junior assistant professor who just moved to the area.

3. gordonwatts - June 24, 2009

Recv’d by private communication: “Although the CA budget is not final yet, no-one thinks the cuts will be less than 20% to UC, or less than 8% pay cuts. We are in one big hole! From this year’s cuts (before the 20%) we have already lost the photocopier, telephones, voicemail, all supplies etc in Physics. There’s nothing left to cut but people.”

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