Tuesday, July 23

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed UC system changes seem promising

In response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s final State of the State Address last week, students have expressed surprise and doubt about the state’s proposed commitment to higher education.

In his address, the governor proposed an amendment that would guarantee that the University of California and California State University systems would receive no less than 10 percent of the state’s general fund revenue in future years. The address was followed days later by the governor’s release of his 2010-2011 budget proposal, which suggested specific changes to the UC system, including restoration of the $305 million cut made last year to the UC and protection of the funding for the Cal Grant program.

“We were surprised. Many of us were expecting far worse, but the governor came out in support of funding education, which was great news for all of us,” said Miguel Lopez, vice president of external affairs of the Graduate Student Association. But given the current state of the California economy, the question remains whether this ambitious proposal can be implemented, said Cinthia Flores, president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council.

“The practicality is definitely in question because we are in a budget crisis. But although it may not seem realistic, we need to work to make it realistic,” Flores said.

Still, the governor’s proposed changes to the state’s higher education system were a definite victory for UC students, particularly those who have worked to lower student fees, she added.

Lopez echoed the optimism regarding the proposed changes in the speech by the governor, who said the proposed 2.5 percent increase in funding for higher education would be an improvement.

The effect on UC graduate students will be particularly noticeable, as budget cuts threatened to compromise the quality of graduate research, according to Jamal Madni, president of the Graduate Student Association.

“The proposed changes will allow graduate students to undertake more quality research and maintain the University of California as the preeminent institution for research that it currently is,” Madni said.

However, Madni raised concerns over whether the funding increase would be sustainable in the long term or whether it was merely a response to the current pressure the governor faces from students and university administrators.

Other student leaders have also voiced misgivings over the proposed changes. Victor Sanchez, president of the UC Students Association, raised questions regarding what institutions will need to be cut for the increase in federal funding.

“There’s always a catch,” said Sanchez. “We have reservations regarding where the funds are coming from and what will be cut as a result. We oppose the elimination of the competitive Cal Grant, and the cut of academic preparation programs, which will decrease diversity within the UC.”

He also expressed concern regarding the reliance of the UC on federal funding for education.

“The governor has to change the way he’s looking at alternative sources of revenue,” Sanchez said, “I think people just need to get more creative.”

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