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UC’s Washington, D.C., Exchange Program to Be Restructured

Budget Crisis Plagues Off-Campus Programs; Consolidation Probable


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Adding to the list of programs altered or axed by the University of California over the past year, the university’s nationally acclaimed UC Washington Center (UCDC) is now on the chopping block.

In an effort to cut back on spending, the multi-campus internship and academic programs that embody UCDC may soon be consolidated into a single university-run program, according to UC officials. Currently, each campus administers an exchange program in Washington, D.C., that allows students and faculty from the UC to research, work, and study in the nation’s capital. Because the program provides students with housing in the capital, many use the program to take internships that they might not otherwise be able to get in Cailfornia.

UC officials claim that as a result of an accumulating deficit, UCDC - which boasts a nearly $2 million budget - is too inefficient to operate singularly, given the UC’s $800 million deficit. “State funds are going to be 20 percent less for the UC next year,” said Bruce Cain, UCDC Center executive director. “With less and less money coming from the state, we have to reevaluate all parts of the UC that are not campus-specific, such as the Education Abroad Program, the Sacramento Center, and of course the UCDC Center.” According to Cain, the consolidation of the UC’s off-campus programs may solve the system’s financial ailments.

Although nine of the UC’s 10 campuses share a facility in Washington, D.C., admission to the UCDC program is currently left up to each individual campus. However, the looming financial shortfalls of the UC system have left top administrators to contemplate restructuring the program in order to cut costs. “What is happening right now in Sacramento is a game-changer,” Cain said. “The UC will never be the same as a result of what’s happening now and what will happen in our state capital over the next two years.”

In an ongoing conversation involving a number of the university’s administrative offices - including the UC Office of the President, the Council of Deans, and the Academic Advisory Council (AAC) - officials are searching for both an immediate and economical solution to the budget crisis without damaging the academic quality of the university. Presently, there are four recommendations being circulated among high-ranking UC officials about the fate of the UCDC program: to retain the status quo and not consolidate the nine-campus UCDC program; to consolidate the programs, creating a centralized program rather than nine different programs; to find some funding through the increase in student fees, while keeping the program decentralized; and finally to both consolidate the program and move to fees.

According to Cain, the debate over the fate of the UCDC program will continue for a number of months. “The question becomes, is there a way to do this that is cost-effective, given that we are going to be under tremendous financial stress over the next few years,” Cain said. “Frankly, I think that the most viable option is to create one consolidated program based on educational fees.” Four associate directors would teach seminars to roughly 275 students from all campuses each quarter under a restructuring plan, replacing the instructors hired by the nine campuses.

Administrative officials will continue to discuss the fate of the UCDC program throughout the summer.

As one of the nation’s premier public institutions, UCSB sustains one of the largest exchange programs to Washington, D.C. As the only UC campus to send students to the capital year-round, a possible consolidation of the UCSB program in Washington, D.C., may have serious special and admission implications.

Mary Nisbet, acting dean of undergraduate studies, said a consolidation of the UCDC program may have serious repercussions for the UCSB program, despite its financial incentives. “Bottom line is that this issue is embryonic right now,” Nisbet said. “I think that the objectives are to retain the opportunity for students to go to Washington, D.C., and to protect the internship program and research opportunities. It’s all still very early, but we all want to protect UCDC.”

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Benjamin Gottlieb is an Independent intern.

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