01/12/2011 12:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

UC Cuts: What Brown's $500 Million Cut Means For UC Budget

This story comes courtesy of California Watch.

By Erica Perez

Just how big is a $500 million cut to the University of California system?

Gov. Jerry Brown this week unveiled a budget that included drastic reductions for the state's public colleges and universities. The plan calls for [PDF] a $500 million cut to the UC, a $500 million cut to the California State University and a $400 million cut to California Community Colleges -- all part of an effort to close a state budget deficit in 2011-12.

Calling it a "sad day for California," UC President Mark Yudof said he would assign budget targets to the presidents of the 10 UC campuses and ask them to come up with proposed cuts. Campuses are to respond by March 1, a UC spokesman said.

For UC, half a billion dollars represents 13 percent of its state funding and 2 percent of its total operating budget.

The 8 percent tuition and fee increase that UC Regents already approved in November will generate $115 million toward the cost-cutting goal.

For the remaining $385 million, the university will likely explore systemwide cutbacks including furloughs, layoffs, limiting enrollment, increasing out-of-state student enrollment and reducing financial aid, the spokesman said.

Campuses across the state will likely share the pain, with a focus on reducing or eliminating programs that do not directly affect student instruction, he said.

But improbability aside, what would it look like for the UC to save $500 million in one fell swoop? Here are a few hypothetical $500 million items:

State funding to UCLA: The state educational appropriation for UCLA totaled $522 million [PDF] in 2008-09. The Southern California campus draws the largest state educational appropriation in the system.

State funding to three medium campuses: Cutting total state support for UCSF [PDF] ($216 million), UC Santa Barbara [PDF] ($169 million) and UC Santa Cruz [PDF] ($108 million) would just about cover the bill.

UC Merced: Even if UC completely eliminated its fledgling central California campus, the university might still have to hunt for extra savings elsewhere. UC Merced [PDF] got about $45 million in total state support in 2009-10. On top of that, the campus has capital assets valued at $392 million after depreciation.

Import nonresident students: The university could admit 22,000 nonresident undergraduate students who pay $22,878 a pop. That would raise a little more than $500 million. But with an influx of new out-of-state students as big as the total undergraduate population of UC Irvine, officials might want to hang on to that UC Merced campus.

Pension cutbacks: Slashing everyone's pension by an average of 25 percent might do the trick. The UC Retirement System paid out $1.9 billion in benefit payments in 2010 according to UC's latest Annual Financial Report [PDF]. Then again, the UC just resumed contributing to the retirement system in April 2010 after a 20-year holiday.

UC Office of the President: Eliminating the entire UC Office of the President [PDF] would save $438 million. Much of the funding for the office comes from non-state resources, however. While nearly $200 million of the office's budget goes to administration, about $242 million of it goes to programs that the office oversees, including the Education Abroad Program, the UC Press and the California Digital Library.