UCLA just received a $200 million gift from Kirk Kerkorian and a foundation he started. Coming on the heels of news of a separate $100 million gift, doesn't this mean that state budget cuts to higher education aren't such a big deal?
In a word, no. These gifts are targeted for certain programs and purposes. Kerkorian's gift is targeted for certain medical and academic programs. And thus can only be used for same. The state support of higher education -- which is facing more big cuts under Gov. Brown's budget proposal -- is so important precisely because there are fewer restrictions on the money (though it's worth noting that the legislature has been discussing putting more restrictions on UC spending).
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There's nothing wrong with university budgets being organized this way, in different silos. The problem in California is that the state government's budget is organized the same way, with big funds that can't be tapped, even in hard times, for other purposes. This is how state taxpayers ended up funding a Super Bowl ad (with money that was set aside for tobacco and health education) even at the time of a big budget crisis.