Chancellor's Friday Letters

Fee hikes painful for all

Fee hikes painful for all

November 19, 2010

Dear Friends,

Earlier this week I was in San Francisco at the University of California Regents meeting, which included a sobering and painful discussion of the reality, and limitations, of the multiple resources that support our students, faculty, and staff.

UC is facing difficult decisions. Part of our work together is to make the best possible decisions today from a set of lousy options. Doing so will allow us to weather the lingering economic storm, and protect the strength and excellence of the University for today’s students, and for generations to come.

At UC Riverside, the unfunded mandates – which are increased obligatory costs for energy, health benefits, pensions, etc. – of the past couple of years are equivalent to an additional 7 percent permanent cut to UCR’s budget. This is on top of the 20 percent cut that was made to our state general funds.

Because of the efforts of many advocating on our behalf, we are grateful that this year the Governor and legislators helped UC to start digging out of a very deep financial hole.

Moreover, the University cut administrative costs by stopping some activities and doing others more efficiently. We restructured debt to lower interest expenses. And last year our faculty and staff endured a one-year salary cut of up to 10% with furloughs. We are raising more money through grants and contracts, and through private philanthropy.

All of these actions are not enough to compensate for the cumulative and massive disinvestment by the state.  The interrelationships among the state contribution, mandatory cost increases, student fees, and other sources of revenue are complex.  But in its simplest form, there is a relationship between the state’s contribution and that of our students… when one goes down the other, of necessity, goes up.

Because of this, and with regret and not without controversy and protest, the Regents felt obligated to approve an 8% increase in tuition and fees for all students, effective in summer 2011. It was an agonizing conversation among the Regents, President, Chancellors, and the students, staff and faculty who participated in the public comment sessions.

I wish the fee increase was not needed this year. But it is the new reality in which we live. And while it simultaneously improves our ability to provide more financial aid to a larger number of students, it still creates an added burden for many students and their families.

To all of our students and families, I want to say I am sorry and that I share your anger, frustration, and concerns.

But please know it is much more expensive for our students to have fewer and lower quality faculty, to have fewer courses available, and to delay their time to degree, than it is to endure a fee increase now.

I often have a chance to speak with our wonderful students. They express appreciation, as well as angst and worry about the added burden on their families, and the sacrifices their parents and siblings make so they can be in school.

Many will be the first to have the transformative experience and benefit of a UC degree – as a stunning 55 percent of our students at Riverside are the first in their families to go to college. Unfortunately, many of these students feel guilt and pressure to stop out.

My advice to all our students is clear and consistent… that you honor the sacrifices that you and your families are making by staying in school and earning your degrees. To stop out is to squander the sacrifices. Based on my own life story and the stories of many others, I assure you there will be a return on your investment and sacrifices.

To our staff employees I say without additional revenue from students, more jobs would be lost because of limited state funding and increased costs.

To our faculty and academic leadership I say these additional student resources are necessary to help sustain our world-class faculty that is the heart, soul and mind of the UC. Students and California both lose if we diminish our faculty.

To our community I say the funds you invest in UC Riverside through your hard earned tax dollars and personal donations are the fuel that keeps our engine running.  As the leader of this institution it is my responsibility to have a “fuel efficient” campus, looking to get a few more miles out of every tank.  I thank you for your investment and I commit to being a responsible steward of your funds.

To all I say we have been through a lot and made many sacrifices to get to today with some, but minimal, erosion of the University. I commend and thank you.

The harsh reality is that financial woes continue to linger, and the Regents understand they are responsible to craft policies necessary to sustain the quality, impact, and relevance of UC to the people of California and the future of our state.

And if I am reading the tea leaves correctly, annual fee increases will be the case for several years to come. The Regents will attempt to create a multi-year plan of increases that reflect moderation and predictability for our students and families. But to do so will require establishing a stable and reliable partnership with the Governor and legislature. This will be the focus of much of our political advocacy work going forward.

Most sincerely,


Tim White, Chancellor

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Billy Collins
I was touched by this exchange between poet Billy Collins — one of UCR’s best-known graduates — and a four-year-old boy. Collins makes the point that you never know how your poems will impact the world…the unexpected moments that result from a university education.

Find out what else is going on at UC Riverside: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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