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California Universities Brace for More Cuts

Facing a persistent budget gap, the California legislature yesterday passed an austere budget that will bring yet more financial pain to the already cash-strapped state university system. The University of California (UC) and California State University were already bracing for a total of $500 million apiece in cuts, but the new budget passed last night cuts an additional $150 million from each, which will likely force more tuition hikes. The UC system has seen state funding drop from $15,020 per student in 2000-2001 to $8220 in 2010-2011, forcing substantial tuition hikes.

Some administrators fear the impact of these cuts will also be felt in the university's ability to recruit and retain top researchers. An article in today's Los Angeles Times reports on three senior UC scientists who've been lured away:

UC San Diego faced a losing battle recently when it tried to hang on to three star scientists being wooed by Rice University for cutting-edge cancer research.

The recruiting package from the private Houston university included 40% pay raises, new labs and a healthy flow of research money from a Texas state bond fund.

Another factor, unrelated to Rice, helped close the deal: The professors' sense that declining state funding for the University of California makes it a good time to pack their bags.

"What's happening now is that the UC and most of the public schools are getting in a much weaker position to play this game," said physicist Jose Onuchic, who has taught at UC San Diego for 22 years but will head to Texas next month, along with fellow physicist Herbert Levine and biochemist Peter Wolynes.