California Universities to Freeze Top Administrator Salaries as Budget Crisis Worsens

California’s two public-university systems announced Friday that they would freeze the salaries of top administrators, one of many steps the systems are taking to cut costs during the state’s most severe fiscal crisis in decades.

The University of California, which has weathered compensation scandals in recent years, said it would freeze the salaries of 285 top administrators and place strict limits on bonuses and other forms of compensation. California State University said it would freeze salaries for dozens of top administrators, stop most hiring, and institute travel restrictions for employees.

Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California, also provided details of a plan to limit undergraduate freshman enrollment by 2,300 students, or 6 percent, during the 2009-10 academic year. The university’s Board of Regents is expected to formally approve both the enrollment cut and the salary freezes at a special meeting next week.

Lawmakers in California, which faces the prospect of a $41.6-billion deficit by the middle of 2010, have yet to approve a budget, but public colleges are anticipating significant cuts over the next year. Campuses of the University of California have been asked to prepare plans for cuts ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent.

“The magnitude of the state’s budget crisis continues to grow, along with the uncertainty of the future fiscal picture,” Charles B. Reed, chancellor of Cal State, said in a written statement. “We are instituting these cost-saving measures, knowing that the state’s fiscal situation worsens each day.”

State leaders have been unable to agree on a budget to close the deficit, creating the possibility that the state will start to run out of money in the next several weeks. The gridlock has already had an adverse effect on its colleges: A statewide ban on state-financed construction projects for 90 days will prevent Cal State from continuing work on administration buildings, libraries, and other projects, the university announced today.

Starting on February 1, the state may also be forced to delay payment for state Cal Grants to students, which could make it difficult for some community-college students to stay in school. The delay would be a reprise of a similar situation in September, when grants for community-college students were threatened because the Legislature was nearly three months’ late in passing the previous budget.

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