THE BLOG
02/09/2011 03:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Opportunity in Crisis: The Potential $99 Million Budget Shortfall

Walk across the campus of the University of California, Davis, today and you will see bicycles in motion -- thousands of them -- just as you would have had you visited in the 1970s.

The bikes keep our students and our campus moving as swiftly and efficiently as ever. But it is clear that much of what we did in years past -- the systems and the philosophies that kept our campus running for many decades no longer work.

Today, UC Davis is facing a new reality, one that requires that we change fundamentally, or risk everything that we hold dear.

Gov. Jerry Brown's 2011-12 budget for the state of California calls for a 16.4 percent cut to the UC system. UC Davis' share of that is $73 million, and when additional fixed costs are included, our university faces a $99 million shortfall in the coming year.

That figure alone is stunning. But even more astonishing: if the governor's 2011-12 budget becomes reality, our state funding will have dropped by nearly 40 percent over the past four years.

These cuts could not come at a worse time for a university on the rise.

UC Davis has been climbing steadily in the rankings and is now one of the nation's top 10 public research universities. We are No. 1 in our contributions to sustainability, according to Thomson Reuters international ranking, and we are in the top 50 in the world in almost every other category. We are also an enterprise for innovation in vital areas such as food, nutrition, water, transportation, health, energy and the environment, and much more.

Drastic budget cuts jeopardize not only the future of our research, teaching, and service mission, but also the significant employment, tax revenue, business spin-offs, new industry, skilled workforce and life-saving work that we give back to the state of California.

UC Davis' budget exceeds $3 billion annually, making us the second largest employer in the region after state government, and a major engine of economic activity. For every two jobs at UC Davis, another job is created somewhere in the state.

These numbers are only a hint of the value that a world-class university brings to its home state, and to the world at large. And no numbers can sum up a university's impact on cleaner, healthier communities or the lives it improves through its research and medical expertise.
Every day, we change the lives of children and their parents at our internationally renowned MIND Institute, where we collaborate with researchers around the world. We currently have more than 40 studies in progress there, ranging from autism to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

And just last month at UC Davis Medical Center, our doctors performed one of the most complex surgeries ever -- a larynx transplant -- that restored the voice of a California woman who had been unable to speak for more than a decade.

We are grateful for the many years of state investment that have given us the ability to do such crucial work and the land and facilities in which to do it.

But at UC Davis, we are not standing in place, waiting for the economy and the state to recover.
We are moving forward with the conviction that the era of heavy state investment in higher education is behind us. The funding levels of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s will not return, and the budgeting philosophy of those days is behind us as well.

The days of temporary fixes are over. We must engage in a strategy of permanent solutions and fundamental change, focusing on innovation and entrepreneurism to reduce costs and generate new revenue -- and still continue to maintain our standards of excellence and academic integrity.

The state of California, of course, remains a valuable partner and supporter of our core academic program. State monies also allow us to leverage federal and private funding. But if Gov. Brown's 2011-12 budget is adopted, state funding will comprise less than 10 percent of our budget.

As we move into the future, we must be bold and creative. We will redesign our structure and accelerate change to adapt to this new reality. Remaining in place means compromising quality, and that is not an option.

Change is painful, but it can also be liberating.

At UC Davis, we will hold on to what we believe in. We will remain a land-grant institution, committed to access to excellence and creating social mobility as we improve quality of life. This ethic is just what was envisioned when the UC system was founded only 20 years after the Gold Rush.

But going forward, we will also be more entrepreneurial. We will be a strong economic driver, pushing our ideas from the lab to the marketplace. We will more actively pursue research funds, public-private partnerships and private and corporate giving.

Already, there are signs of success.

This year, UC Davis set another record with nearly $700 million in research funding.

We have also publicly launched our first-ever $1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign that will help us support student scholarships and meet so many other needs; we have already raised more than $645 million. At the same time, we are in the midst of an initiative that will cut administrative costs and free up funding to support our students and our academic mission.

There is always opportunity in crisis. And we are positioning ourselves to make the most of it. Our nearly 33,000 students, 21,000 staff, 2,500 faculty and 200,000 alumni are trusting us -- to not only maintain our quality -- but to improve. We will not let them down.