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California colleges face severe state budget cuts

Having already made significant cuts in spending this year, California may now be forced to make sweeping mid-year reductions to its education budget because of recent turmoil on Wall Street.

On Nov. 6, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed further across-the-board budget cuts which the state legislature must vote on by the end of the month. Schwarzenegger's plan could have public colleges and universities statewide facing $464.1 million in combined cuts.

The proposed reductions are part of the state's efforts to combat its budget crisis, which Schwarzenegger described in a message to the state legislature as "the result of a budget system where there continues to be no linkage between revenues and spending."

The state's budgetary problems preceded Wall Street's recent troubles, but have only worsened in the volatile economic climate. This year, state revenues are expected to fall by $11.2 billion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Schwarzenegger's plan asks the legislature to cut $323.3 million from the state's 109 community colleges, $65.5 million from the 10-campus University of California system and $66.3 million from the 23-campus California State University system, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

These reductions in California's budget are expected to create challenges for public colleges and universities, which had already been facing reduced funds from the state.

"We recognize that the state's fiscal situation is increasingly deteriorating, but these potential mid-year cuts combined with reductions already made to our budget will result in fewer qualified students being admitted to our universities," Cal State Chancellor Charles Reed said in a press release earlier this month.

As a result of the cuts, the Cal State system will face difficulties opening its doors to new students and offering a sufficient number of classes for current ones, said a spokeswoman, Teresa Ruiz.

"Across the board, many of the state's entities are going to have to deal with budget cuts, and there's not much we can do because the state is so much in debt at this point," Ruiz said.

Patrick Murphy, an adjunct fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said that the budget cuts would not affect "the really super bright kid that has means" to pay for an education.

According to Murphy, the fiscal cuts would directly affect those students whose families cannot afford full tuition. Ensuing admissions cuts might force otherwise admissible students to be deferred, he said.

Murphy described this process as a "roll downhill" - certain students who might have attended a UC school in past years will now enter the Cal State system, and students who would typically have attended Cal State will now head to a community college.

Murphy said he believes the state could combat its budget crisis without putting such a strain on its institutions of higher education, in part by raising state budget revenue through taxes.

However, it is unlikely that California will adopt policies that dramatically increase taxes on its citizens in the near future, he said.

A statewide survey conducted by the Murphy's institute this month found that while 83 percent of Californians are concerned about the potential effects of the state's budget crisis on higher education, a majority said they were unwilling to pay higher taxes or tuition to alleviate the problem.


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