FALL 2009
Vol. 40, No. 2
An Education in the Present and the Past
By Kathleen Foley
The School of Education Celebrates 100 Years
By George Yatchisin
Archaeologist Disputes Beliefs About Maya Civilization Collapse
By Andrea Estrada
Around Storke Tower:
News & Notes From the Campus
Research Roundup:
DigitalOcean Immerses Youth in Marine Ecosystems
Sports Roundup:
Multiple Gaucho Teams Make It to NCAA
Alumni Authors: From Pilots to Politics
’50s to the Present
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Cover: Tina McEnroe M.A. '89 refurbished an old-fashioned, one-room, wooden schoolhouse and shares its history with today's elementary school students.
Credit: Trevor Povah

Balancing Act

Educators Look for the Right Equation to Minimize the Effects of Budget Cuts
By Rob Kuznia

BudgetEven while facing tremendous budget challenges, UC Santa Barbara faculty and staff are stretching to maintain services and standards for students.

“Something of a miracle is happening at UCSB,” Dr. Mary Nisbet, the acting dean of undergraduate education in the College of Letters and Science, told Coastlines. “In spite of the fact that we’ve got this big budget crunch, everybody has made a huge effort to accommodate these students.”

The 10-campus system this year has been forced to address a gaping $637 million budget hole by slashing courses, imposing furloughs, and hiking student fees by a staggering 32 percent. UC Santa Barbara students, like students at all UC schools, are facing a fee hike of $2,514, to $10,300 a year. And UC Santa Barbara staff and faculty, like all UC staff and faculty, must take off between 11 and 26 days of unpaid leave -- resulting in a 4 to 10 percent pay cut -- with the highest-paid employees taking larger pay cuts.

Staff and faculty also must function with fewer co-workers, due to layoffs and unfilled vacancies. During the 2008-09 school year, UC Santa Barbara reduced its workforce by 235 full-time equivalents, including layoffs, eliminating unfilled positions, and reducing time. Chancellor Henry Yang told the UC Regents in July that he anticipates workforce reductions for 2009-10 to be far greater than the 235 full-time equivalents the previous year.

For instance, the staff for Nisbet’s department -- which advises UC Santa Barbara’s 18,000 liberal-arts students -- has been winnowed in one year to 22 from 29. (The cuts were the result of attrition, not layoffs, she said.) In October, 48 employees took part in the Voluntary Separation Option, which promoted salary savings by encouraging employees to end their employment and receive severance pay.


The budget crunch at UC Santa Barbara is exacerbated by the over-enrollment of roughly 1,400 students for whom it receives no state money. With the state’s annual per-student rate at around $9,500, that’s $13.3 million the campus isn’t getting. All told, the shortfall at UC Santa Barbara amounts to a whopping $45 million.

And yet, the staff and faculty in Santa Barbara are finding ways to make it work.

The individual maneuvers are countless, but in short, professors and instructors are finding ways to serve more students with fewer lectures.

While UC Santa Barbara’s main lecture offerings have dwindled in one year by 50 to about 840, the size of the classes has grown. “Rather than a class of 300, you might have a class of 500,” Nisbet said.

For professors and lecturers, this also means grading more papers and exams. UC Santa Barbara’s undergraduate enrollment this fall -- 19,796 -- surpassed last fall by 900 students, and the previous year by about 1,400 students. Next year, out of necessity, the growth trend is expected to reverse.

“We’re looking to reduce enrollment by many hundreds of students by fall of 2010,” Christine Van Gieson, UC Santa Barbara’s director of admissions, told Coastlines.

In the near future, the domino effect of the budget collapse is expected to bring about permanent changes in course offerings.

For instance, beginning in the winter quarter of 2010, students who fail a course twice will not be permitted to take it a third time, barring extenuating circumstances, Nisbet said.

Nisbet said the new rule would help free up hundreds of spaces in courses with waiting lists. It also will better enable students to find the path that is right for them, rather than taking the same class over and over again.

“They can waste a year and a half to two years doing this,” she said. “(The new rule) will encourage students to find a major they are suited to faster, so they can therefore graduate successfully.”

Other sacrifices are specific to UC Santa Barbara. For instance, in October, UC Santa Barbara officials announced that the university would be closing its off-campus studies program in Ventura, which at the time enrolled some 65 students. The 25-year-old program was especially attractive to working parents who preferred not to commute to Santa Barbara to continue their studies. UC Santa Barbara officials are working with the students to help them finish their degrees while supporters are looking at ways to keep some form of the program going.

Budget Graphs

Additional examples of budget cuts at UC Santa Barbara include:

  • Campus closures of all offices for the last two weeks of 2009 and mandatory closures throughout the rest of the school year.
  • $200,000 reduction in Alumni Affairs’ budget this fiscal year.
  • Reduced social/cultural programming, reduced hours of service, and reduced student staff hires in the Division of Student Affairs, which includes more than 25 key student service departments such as the Campus Learning Assistance Services, Counseling Services, and Career Services.


Across the UC system, the financial malaise is the continuation of a long trend. Over the past two decades, the state’s financial support of the UC system has fallen by half, to about 13 percent of the UC budget. In the past decade, student fees have doubled.

David Marshall, executive dean of the UC Santa Barbara College of Letters and Science and an English professor, does not mince words about the seriousness of the situation. “The future of the University of California as a great public research university is at stake,” he said. “With an unprecedented 20 percent reduction in our budget, in an unprecedentedly short period of time, we are struggling to maintain accessibility and excellence.”

Marshall called on alumni to serve as ambassadors of the university. “There are thousands of alumni in the California, and thousands more parents and families of alumni, who know first-hand the value of the education that they received,” he said. “Help us make the case that higher education should be a priority for California.”


Of the many possible solutions to the UC budget woes being bandied about in the media, at least one causes Nisbet to cringe: privatization of the UC system.

“I think it would be a tragedy,” she said, adding that her native Scotland is still paying a price for closing the doors on capable students in that the country now imports a good deal of its professional talent. “I hope, in five or 10 years time, we in California don’t look back and say, ‘My gosh, what did we do to ourselves.’ … It just breaks my heart when I see able students not able to get in.”

To avoid that fate, Nisbet said she and many others at UC Santa Barbara are working in overdrive.

“People have responded magnificently, but that doesn’t mean this was easy,” she said. “Resources are very tight and people are working at the margin. I really do think people are under a lot of stress.”

In any event, Nisbet said, all responses will be made with an eye toward making the best of a bad situation -- and keeping undergraduate students as happy as possible, given the circumstances.

“That’s part of the UCSB spirit -- we rely on our undergraduates, we enjoy our undergraduates,” she said. “It’s a large part of our culture.”