Searching for an additional $5.5 billion in budget cuts, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday proposed eliminating almost all state funding for Hastings College of the Law.
The proposed $10.3 million cut amounts to roughly one-quarter of the school's academic budget, said David Seward, Hastings' chief financial officer. Seward and other school officials were still digesting news of the proposal Tuesday and could not say what the immediate impact on Hastings students might be.
"We can't cut faculty. We don't have enough," said Dean Nell Newton. "It's raise tuition or increase the size of the student body, but we don't really have the facilities to hold more."
Raising tuition -- each of Hastings' 1,260 students would pay an extra $8,175 if saddled with the entire shortfall -- is problematic, too, given that the school already set its tuition for the 2009-10 academic year.
Newton said school leaders will tap alumni, including some legislators, for a lobbying and "education" campaign aimed at blocking the governor's proposal.
"I'm really not sure how the pathetic $10 million that Hastings gets is going to solve the state's budget problems," Newton said.
Ana Matosantos, chief deputy director of the state Department of Finance, said the governor was targeting Hastings and other state-funded programs that don't have a federal mandate. The school could backfill the cuts with fee increases or unspecified "other sources," she said.
The funding cuts are aimed at closing what state officials said Tuesday is now a $24 billion budget deficit. Other cost-cutting proposals include the early release of non-violent inmates, eliminating a children's health insurance program, and cutting another $182 million from the judicial branch. Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said the governor's plan could lead to courts closing two days a month instead of just the one day now envisioned by court leaders.
Eliminating state funding for California's oldest law school would effectively make Hastings a private campus funded solely by tuition. Although Hastings is a state school, it is separate from other University of California law centers and does not fall under the authority of the Board of Regents. The Legislature also considers its budget as a separate line item.
Newton and others say it's unfair for Hastings to lose all of its state funding when other budget cuts target the UC system as a whole and not individual professional schools.
"We have the same status as UC, which is constitutional status," Newton said. "I'm not even sure they can do this."
A joint budget committee on Tuesday viewed the governor's proposal skeptically, noting that the state's new law school at UC-Irvine opens doors to students in August.
"Why would we start a new law school when we've had Hastings around for 100 years, and it has a great reputation?" said Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego.