Four years of severe budget cuts are impacting the learning environment, despite “heroic efforts” by faculty and staff, Chancellor Timothy P. White told the UCR community in a Town Hall meeting March 6.

“There is growing evidence now of degradation of the learning environment,” he said, adding that the situation would be far worse without the sacrifices of faculty who are teaching more students in larger classes and staff who are doing far more with much less.

The average class size increased from 66 to 87 in lower-division courses between 2008 and 2011, the chancellor said, with a similar trend evident in upper-division courses. Enrollment in gateway courses has nearly doubled – or in the case of Physics 20, more than quadrupled — in the same period. The number of faculty members is down by about 5 percent, while enrollment is up 2,877 students in that period.

“This is very troubling data and is something we have to reverse for long-term success,” he said.

Seventy-five FTE staff positions have been eliminated since fall 2008, with the ratio of professional and support staff to ladder-rank teaching faculty now 4.87, the second-lowest among UC campuses without medical centers. The ratio of .47 management positions to ladder-rank teaching faculty is the lowest in the UC, he added.

“We’ve gone from fat to muscle to bone. If we have more significant cuts, we will start cutting vital organs,” White said.

At the same time, “Student interest in UC Riverside is up,” the chancellor said. “We had a record number of applications last fall, up 14 percent for next fall. Our faculty and staff are doing something right.”

The general fund budget outlook remains unpredictable, insufficient, “and is not a model that is sustainable,” he said. The budget scenario for the future does not look significantly better. Without tuition increases of 5 percent in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 and UCOP absorbing $300 million in reductions between fiscal years 2012 and 2014, UCR could face a deficit of $45.6 million by 2013-14, White said.

The chancellor also presented a progress report on UCR 2020, the strategic plan. Among the milestones: UCR now has more doctoral programs ranked by the National Research Council than UC San Diego; extramural funding in the first six months of fiscal year 2012 exceeds grants received in the first six months of FY2011 by $10 million; development of a bridging strategy of funding from many partners to enable accreditation of the School of Medicine; establishment of new master’s degree programs in accountancy, bioengineering and computer engineering; receipt of a $3.9 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Hispanic Serving Institutions and a $600,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for women faculty in STEM fields; and recognition as the No. 1 research university for student community service hours.

The webcast can be viewed on the chancellor’s website, www.chancellor.ucr.edu.