BERKELEY -- UC Berkeley faces a cut of $50 million to its $2.2 billion budget if Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot measure to increase taxes fails in November.
That scenario would be a "very dark day" for students, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said at a back-to-school news conference Thursday.
Birgeneau said students coming from middle- and upper-income families would be hurt the most. The failure of the tax measure would result in a tuition hike of 20 percent, UC Regents said earlier this summer. That would bump costs for undergraduate students to $14,670 a year.
That dark day would mean more debt, fewer classes and more time spent working jobs to pay for college, students said Thursday.
"I'll be in debt until I'm 80," said 21 year-old UC Berkeley senior Kayla Harris who plans to take another year to finish her studies. Harris said she already works two jobs and pays $600 a month for a studio apartment she shares with another person. She estimates she already owes $60,000 and an increase will move it up to about $70,000.
"There will be a lot more borrowing involved," Harris said.
Sophomore Olivia Michterman, 19, said an increase in tuition would cause her to "take fewer classes, work more and take on more long-term debt which will make my life miserable," if the UC system raises tuition.
UC Berkeley leaders said Thursday budget cuts can be absorbed somewhat by donations, operational savings and budget reserves.
University Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance John Wilton admitted during the news conference that he did not know how much money the school has in reserves. When asked to make a guess, he declined.
"We do have sufficient reserves to sustain teaching and research, but we can't run the university on reserves," Wilton said.
Officials said donations to the university increased 25 percent in the last year to $392 million and it saved $25 million in operating efficiencies. UC Berkeley gets about 11 percent of its money from the state, which is down from about 50 percent "seven or eight years ago," Wilton said.
Numbers: 5,350, 5,600
Out of state students: 14 percent, 18.9 percent
California students: 75 percent, 69.7 percent
International students: 10 percent, 11.3 percent
Asian: 46 percent, 45.8 percent
Caucasian: 28 percent, 31.6 percent
Latino: 14 percent, 12.3 percent
Black: 3 percent, 3.1 percent
Native American: 1 percent, 0.8 percent
Source: UC Berkeley Media Relations