OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- California's public colleges and universities would suffer another round of painful funding cuts under a "tough budget" proposed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The leaders of the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges say the proposed $1.4 billion reduction in higher education spending could force them to raise tuition, turn away qualified students and take other draconian cost-cutting measures.
Under Brown's proposal for the coming fiscal year, the 10-campus UC system and 23-campus CSU system would each lose $500 million in state funding. The state would cut funding to the state's 112 community colleges by $400 million and raise student fees from $26 to $36 per unit to generate an additional $110 million.
"Given the vast demographic shifts under way in California, now is not the time to shrink public higher education, but to grow it," the leaders of UC, CSU and California Community Colleges said in a joint statement. "The road to recovery from this recession and prosperity far beyond it runs straight through our many campuses."
The proposed reductions come as the state's colleges and universities seek to recover from unprecedented budget cuts less than two years ago that led to steep tuition hikes, faculty furloughs, enrollment cuts and rowdy campus protests.
Brown's office projects the state faces a $25.4 billion budget deficit over the next 18 months. To close it, he proposes to cut spending by $12.5 billion and give voters an opportunity to extend taxes that would generate $12 billion in revenue.
K-12 education would be the only area spared in the newly elected governor's $84.6 billion general fund budget, but only if voters approve the tax extensions.
Brown said the cuts in higher education spending were among the most difficult to make. "I don't like the fact that we're cutting back there," he said Monday.
UC President Mark Yudof said the proposed $500 million reduction amounts to a 16.4 percent cut in state funding and would mark the first time that California students contribute more than the state for their education.
The UC system is seeking to save $500 million over the next few years by streamlining administration, but would have to seek more ways to make up the shortfall, Yudof. He said he would prefer not to raise tuition, but could not rule it out.
"The physics of the situation cannot be denied -- as the core budget shrinks, so must the university," Yudof said in an open letter.
CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said the $500 million cut amounts to a 18 percent reduction and would likely force the CSU system to restrict enrollment for students applying for this coming fall.
"The magnitude of the budget reduction in one year will have serious impacts on the state's economy, limit access for students seeking entrance into our universities, and restrict classes and services for our current students," Reed said in a statement.
Jack Scott, who heads California Community Colleges, said the state's two-year colleges would have to turn away up to 350,000 students next year if the state cuts the $400 million proposed by the governor.