University of California students may have trouble finding the classes they need next year, but they likely will be paying more for the ones they do take.
Trying to defray an expected budget shortfall, UC administrators are cutting courses and graduate-student support for the 2008-09 school year. On top of that, UC regents next week are expected to approve fee increases averaging more than 7 percent.
At UC Berkeley, about 1,500 students will not be able to take Chinese, Japanese or Korean language courses because budget cuts are preventing the school from retaining some lecturers. The course scarcity means that classes will be restricted to students from the College of Letters and Science, said Alan Tansman, chairman of the department of East Asian languages and culture.
For scientists and business majors, Asian languages are vital, he said.
"Learning these languages is like a skill set," he said. The budget cuts are "cutting much deeper than just the humanities."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed giving the 10-campus UC system $417 million less than it requested from him, part of a statewide budget-slashing spree in response to California's estimated $20 billion shortfall. Schwarzenegger's revised budget proposal is due next week.
UC leaders have not decided how much they will ask regents to raise student fees at next week's meeting at UCLA, but Schwarzenegger's budget assumes a 7 percent increase for undergraduates and 10 percent for most graduate students.
Undergraduate fees average $7,511 for California residents this year, while graduate students pay an average of $9,768.
Other graduate students, including UC Berkeley business and law students, will pay significantly higher fees next year as part of a plan to raise prices to private-school levels. The highest prices will top $40,000 per year by 2010.
Each campus — and each department on the campuses — is dealing with the cuts in its own way. At UC Berkeley, most departments are trimming their nontenured lecturers and graduate-student instructors.
Several departments, including East Asian languages and cultures, rely heavily on nontenured teachers, meaning there is no way to provide a full slate of courses without them. Graduate students often use their teaching income to pay for their own classes, meaning the budget cuts could put their educations at risk.
In UC Berkeley's English department, endowed professors — whose research is paid partly by private funds — have been asked to donate some of that private money to graduate-student support.
"Unfortunately, we are facing a situation where we don't expect to be able to fulfill our commitments to those students," department chairman Ian Duncan said. "We've been scrambling madly. In even the most optimistic scenario, we're going to fall short."
The cuts are particularly problematic for UC Berkeley because it has increasingly struggled to compete for students and faculty members with wealthier private facilities.
In addition, many academic departments have not recovered from past cuts that left them short of staff and students.
UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry, for example, is trying to cut $570,000, about 7 percent of its core budget, said Dean Clayton Heathcock.
"The problem is we've already gone through a couple of fairly deep rounds of cuts," he said. "There's not a lot of places we can cut anymore."
Students have rallied around the East Asian language department in particular. A demonstration is planned for Thursday, and organizers said Tuesday that hundreds have confirmed their attendance.
"There is a rationale for the cuts," said Jay Kim, a fourth-year social welfare major. "But the students need a voice. These cuts aren't in the students' best interests."
Matt Krupnick covers higher education. Reach him at 925-943-8246 or email@example.com.