Chancellor Blumenthal gave his “State of the Campus” address to a lecture hall filled with students, faculty and community leaders.
During the address, which took place on Sept. 24, he commended UC Santa Cruz students and faculty on their academic achievements and highlighted UCSC’s efforts to continue working closely with the surrounding community.
Blumenthal also warned of the possibility of “a hefty mid-year tuition increase,” contingent upon the results of the California ballot initiative Proposition 30 in the November election.
“We have so much in common, and there is so much at stake,” Blumenthal said. “That’s why we have come together today, to reflect on how we’re doing as a campus and how that relates to the world around us.”
Blumenthal also praised the UCSC faculty for their internationally recognized research, citing UCSC’s establishment of the Cancer Genomics Hub this year and the contributions made by UCSC professors to the discovery of the elusive Higgs-Boson particle last July.
“For our size, we are a research heavyweight,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal also mentioned the thousands of volunteer hours logged by students at various local institutions each year and the $1.3 billion in economic activity that UCSC brings to Santa Cruz County annually as examples of the campus’s contributions to its surrounding community. He added that UCSC is the single largest employer in the county.
“We know that we’re a big neighbor,” Blumenthal said. “And we work hard to be a good neighbor.”
In 2008 UCSC reached a settlement with the city and county of Santa Cruz, and several local nonprofits regarding the impact the University has on traffic and water conditions. The final component of that settlement will not be decided until the meeting on Nov. 7 of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).
“The city and the university have been fighting for years over this,” Duf Fischer said, an ambassador from the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce. “So I think the chancellor did an awesome job delineating the commonality between businesses, the city and the university, and how we can all benefit from each other going forward.”
During the Q&A that followed his speech, Blumenthal said he was unable to comment on the outcome of the LAFCO decision, but he did note that UCSC has reduced the amount of traffic to and from campus by 20 percent since 2005, and its water usage has fallen by 22 percent since 2002.
“And,” he said, “we have a lot more students today than we did 10 years ago.”
Blumenthal said providing the classes and services students expect has become much harder in recent years however, due to California’s fiscal crisis and subsequent cuts to the UC system.
“Trust me,” Blumenthal said, “its been increasingly, actually very difficult, to continue to provide the extraordinary student experience that’s been the hallmark of UC Santa Cruz.”
He said California’s contribution to the UC budget has declined by 45 percent since 1990, and that UCSC’s state funding has been cut by $59 million since 2008. Tuition costs at UC and CSU campuses have tripled in the last 10 years.
“The State has truly disinvested,” Blumenthal said.
He said that if California’s Proposition 30 doesn’t pass this November, it would mean additional cuts and tuition hikes. Proposition 30 would increase sales tax by .25 percent and raise taxes on all individuals making over $250,000 a year. K-12 schools would receive 89 percent of the revenue raised, while the remaining 11 percent would go to California’s community colleges.
None of the money raised by Prop 30 would go directly to the UC or CSU systems, but its passage would allow California to meet its obligation to K-12 schools and community colleges, precluding further cuts to UCs and CSUs. Blumenthal said UCs and CSUs would face $625 million in automatic cuts this year if Prop 30 fails to pass, potentially resulting in a 21 percent tuition increase this winter.
Blumenthal contrasted the nearly $5,000 UC students now pay quarterly to his own tuition-free UC education during the 1960s. Free education was a central tenet of the Master Plan that established the UC system in 1965.
“Its been hard for me and for other people at the university to realize that those days are over and that we need to accommodate ourselves to the new world in which we live,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal also said that while a stable funding source was important, he would like to see the state’s contribution not just stabilize, but grow over the coming years.
Rosemary Anderson, a business continuity planner at UCSC, said that she thinks UCSC and the UC system are on the right track.
“We’re doing a better job on our offense, instead of just working on our defense,” Anderson said. “I think we need to capitalize more on what our university has done, to make people realize why a good education is so important to the solvency of our future.”