Dear Campus Community:
On Tuesday, our votes will determine important directions for our country, our State and our local communities. In California, the outcome of Proposition 30, whether it passes or fails, will have a major impact on public education. If Prop. 30 were to fail, it would signal a continued disinvestment in public higher education and a conviction by California voters that public higher education is increasingly a private benefit to be paid for by those receiving education. Passage of Proposition 30 will show a concerted will by the California public to reverse this trend, recognizing that public higher education contributes to better lives for all citizens and should be supported by us all.
On Friday, I participated in “Achieve UC”, a state-wide effort to bring UC leaders and admissions counselors into high schools across the state to encourage students to aim for college. I spoke to 300 sophomore and junior students at Lincoln High School in San Jose. These bright and talented young students, full of hope and aspiration, deserve the opportunity to achieve their dreams through higher education. They should not find that classes are closed to them in community colleges or that places are limited in our state universities, or that attending the University of California is increasingly difficult.
On the Berkeley campus, we have worked very hard over the past several years to encourage philanthropy, to increase research funding and other sources of income, and to reduce significantly administrative costs to protect our teaching and research mission. We have managed the challenge of drastically reduced state funding while sustaining our academic excellence and protecting accessibility for students from low-income families and more recently, for students from middle-class families. Berkeley undergraduate students graduate with debt which is the lowest nationally among four-year public universities, some $17,000 for those with debt.
If Proposition 30 fails, we will be challenged on the Berkeley campus with a loss of some $40 to $50 million in our operating budget. This is a significant challenge and, although it will be difficult, we will continue to be guided by our principles of “Access and Excellence” in dealing with the loss of funding and continue on a path that will sustain our excellence and our public character.
While I cannot presume to tell you how to vote tomorrow, I urge you to look carefully at Proposition 30 and to vote according to your own values and opinions of California’s future.
Robert J. Birgeneau
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