University of California to trim $500 million in administrative costs

The UC system plans to cut half a billion dollars in administrative costs from its budget.
The UC system plans to cut half a billion dollars in administrative costs from its budget.
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As the Regents of the University of California were voting to increase student tuitions by 32 percent last fall, students and faculty members outside of the meetings were protesting with one common message: cut the excess and fat from the UC budget before you raise student fees. Whether UC executives have directly answered the students’ pleas is debatable, but today the UC Board of Regents has decided to go forward with a plan to trim $500 million in administrative costs over the next five years and shift the savings to academics.

There will be some layoffs and personnel cutbacks through attrition, and the 10 campuses in the UC system will consolidates services, from library administration to financial reports. A leaner and meaner UC system is welcome news in this era of depleted state budgets, and will certainly be applauded by students, faculty and administration, but will it ultimately translate into a better education for California’s vaunted public universities?

UC executive VP for business operations Nathan Brostrom says the cutting of UC administration costs has been a long time coming.

KPCC's Jonathan Serviss offers his analysis of UC administrative cuts from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

Brostrom told KPCC's Patt Morrison that there's finally "one real consensus about doing this together," whereas in the past there has been what Brostom called a "culture of autonomy, of campuses building their own."

The UC campuses are considering several ways to streamline their administrative services, from consolidating payrolls to their IT networks and data services. Brostrom told Morrison there are still many ways to make cuts without losing jobs.

He also stressed that more than saving money, consolidation makes sense. "Our similarities are far greater than our differences," he said. "Coming up with common standards will overwhelm the odds against it."

Student Regent Designate Jessie Cheng says he's very optimistic about the financial trimming.
"This is saving the UC students another 30 percent student fee increase," he told Morrison. "As a student, I'm incredibly thankful."

Cheng opposed the 30 percent student fee hike the board of regents passed back in September.

Cheng says he supports any efforts to help the administration absorb some of "the burden the students have taken" on in the past year and to encourage the administration to look at where they can cut costs among their ranks, rather than at the students' expense.