Federal Budget cuts hurt UC's diversity, research
One year ago, the people of California approved Proposition 30, which prevented $6 billion in cuts to the state’s education budget. Californians understand that our public colleges and universities are preparing students for the jobs of the future, performing important research and serving as economic engines for the state.
Unfortunately, the current budget battle in Washington is endangering these benefits just when our state needs them most.
As an incentive to reach a deal on the nation’s budget, the Budget Control Act of 2011 included the threat of sequestration – or across-the-board cuts to broad portions of the federal budget. A deal never emerged, and sequestration is now in effect. Unless the law is changed, even deeper cuts will go into effect this January. As head of one of our state’s largest universities, it is my duty to state that continuing down the road of sequestration is shortsighted at best and disastrous for our state at worst.
Continued sequestration will make it more expensive to attend college in California and stifle the innovation that is saving lives and creating jobs.
UC Davis and our fellow University of California campuses have a responsibility to make a world-class education affordable for California’s families. More than 29,000 Californians – including 6,000 Central Valley residents – are students at UC Davis, and due to a variety of grant, scholarship and fellowship programs, more than half of our undergraduates pay no tuition. Likewise, our students graduate with nearly one-third less debt than the national average. To make this a reality, we leverage federal support for higher education with state funds and our own campus financial aid programs.
Regrettably, the arbitrary funding cuts required by sequestration take us in the opposite direction. Programs that help low-income and first-generation students achieve the dream of a college education have been cut, as have work-study programs that provide income for our students and work experience for when they graduate. Even Pell Grants, the federal government’s primary means of providing financial aid to low-income students, could face deep cuts under sequestration.
But it is not just our students and their families feeling the effects. Federal funding supports a range of vital research that saves and improves lives, creates thousands of jobs and builds our economy. Consider the effect it has on the treatment of childhood asthma.
California’s Central Valley has some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. In some counties, as many as 1 in 4 young people have been diagnosed with asthma. Thanks to federal funding, UC Davis researchers have made important breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of asthma and are working toward a cure.
Or consider what federal funding achieves for California’s agricultural industry. Bovine respiratory disease might not be a household term, but our state’s cattle farmers know all too well that it is the costliest cattle disease in North America. UC Davis researchers are developing innovations that help prevent and treat this disease and improve animal welfare while decreasing antibiotic use.
This research simply doesn’t happen without federal support. Preliminary reports show a 12 percent decrease in research funding for the University of California system last year due to sequestration. In addition, while the U.S. cuts back on research funding, countries like China, Singapore and South Korea are making major investments, challenging our preeminence in innovation and outcompeting us for top talent from around the world.
Investment in higher education is investment in economic growth. UC Davis alone accounts for 70,000 jobs and $7 billion in economic activity each year. Cutting off funding to our colleges and universities means fewer jobs, fewer dollars going to small businesses and fewer of the highly educated workers essential to our state’s economy.
As California did with Proposition 30, the nation now has an opportunity to reaffirm the role of colleges and universities. By ending sequestration and restoring the funds that support research and innovation and help our students afford college, we will fulfill the promise of public higher education and preserve the vast opportunities epitomized by our state for generations to come.