Financial Times, Business Week, the LA Times, Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and other news outlets) the System-wide Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs suspended its review of the proposed transformation of the Anderson MBA from a state-supported program to a self-supported program. Chris offered an analysis of the proposal's budgetary confusion back in June. CCGA offers a full menu of objections.
For those of you keeping score that means that both Senate Committees (UCLA's Graduate Council and CCGA) that had the time to do a thorough review of the proposal refused to approve it. The Legislative Assembly at UCLA had supported it by a small majority in a June meeting. But it should be noted that that meeting had a severely limited time for discussion, crucial financial details were only made available to the Assembly the day before the meeting, and the voting began before the discussion had actually finished (although the administration had been given its own time to speak). Despite the seriousness with which the Legislative Assembly members approached their task, it is hard to see how they were provided with the opportunity for careful analysis that the Senate Committees had.
CCGA made a series of important points that are worth highlighting. The first, and simplest, is that despite the claims of Anderson and the UCLA administration, the proposal for the self-supporting MBA simply does not meet the thresholds required for approval. Whatever one thinks about SSPs (and I will have more to say about that below) it is clear that the rules demand that SSP programs either provide opportunities for students that the University has traditionally not served, or else provide new opportunities for students by developing new or unconventional modes of instruction to expand the educational possibilities for already served students. Anderson's proposed MBA, frankly, does neither. Anderson's students are traditional MBA students (the only reasonable comparison group) and the proposal does not suggest any new or innovative educational opportunities that would justify self-supporting status. In fact, as CCGA notes (2-3), despite some claims to the contrary, the proposal evinces no evidence of instructional improvement at all).
As CCGA points out, another aspect of the problem is that UC does not have a policy for transforming state programs into self-supporting ones. (1-2) Lacking such a policy, any transformation from state-supported to self-supported programs will only proceed in a lawless and self-interested way, without any consistent academic principle, and subject to little rational oversight. UCOP and the Academic Senate needs to consider this problem seriously. But in considering it, they need to move beyond the ad hoc character of the justification for the University's turn to SSPs in the first place. Again, at least 3 issues stand out.
1) Although it is easy to see how SSPs can appear a logical means to expand the communities that UC serves without putting additional demands on undergraduate tuition or state funding, questions still remain about the inevitable conflicts that will occur between core teaching and service on the one hand and SSP teaching (which under the guidelines will always be overload teaching) on the other.
2) If this problem is present in newly developed SSP programs, there are additional ones involved with any proposal to shift a
state-supported program to an SSP status. For the conversion to SSP is predicated with the replacement of public by private funds and thereby a transfer of responsibility from public to private interests. The proliferation of
SSP programs will inevitably change the nature of the University of California.
Given these difficulties, the criteria for SSP approval should not be
limited to questions internal to the proposed program. Instead,
proponents should be required to demonstrate that the addition of the
SSP will improve in a substantial way core finances and instruction.
Simply proving that a program could support itself is not enough.
The proposed conversion of Anderson provides an example of these problems (where despite
insistence to the contrary it seems clear that it was only with the
promise of increased salaries that faculty there would devote time to
the core MBA as opposed to the other programs that were already
self-supporting). In Anderson's case, if the University allows the MBA conversion to move ahead the program would depend on increased tuition from its students and investments from Donors. Even though the program would, as Chris noted in his June analysis, continue to receive unacknowledged subsidies from Central Campus (in addition to benefiting from decades of state support to the University overall) it would increasingly be donors--not the public--to which the program would need to attend. Again I understand that the proponents of the Anderson conversion insist that there would be no such influence. But their arguments are not persuasive.
Part of Anderson's argument for the conversion is that there are donors who will only contribute if the School cuts the Program's ties with the State. There are two possible explanations for this Donor demand. Some of the proponents of the conversion have suggested that Donors assume that the State contributes more to Anderson than it does and therefore don't donate because they don't think it is necessary. But if this is the real motive then surely Dean Olian of Anderson could explain and educate them about the real limitations of state funding. The second option is that their reluctance to donate is ideological--that they refuse to support a publicly funded program. In that case, conversion will be a sign that their influence has already taken hold. For if they succeed, they will have transformed the nature and structure of the MBA program and the Anderson School.
3) But there is another angle to consider for these proposed conversions. One of the talking points in favor of the Anderson conversion has been the claim that allowing the MBA to become self-supporting will gain 8 Million dollars for central campus. Central to this claim is that at present UCLA enrolls more students than the state supports. The claim then is that if the Anderson MBA drops off the roll of state-supported programs, the campus can then simply transfer the funds that had gone to Anderson to central campus by reclassifying the "over-enrolled" students as "state supported" students. And, in fact, it is probably true that UCLA can negotiate with UCOP to increase the number of California Residents it is committed to enrolling in order to preserve that funding.
But what exactly does that entail for the campus? Several issues come to mind.
First, we should recognize that making this commitment--in an era where there will be increased enrollment management--means that UCLA will be locking in a commitment to a class size that already is straining the instructional capacities of the campus without an increase of funding to the campus as a whole. Put another way, at a point where the University admits that state funding is not adequate to support the education of students, the campus Administration is proposing that the state supported part of campus commit to being underfunded in order to provide Anderson access to a greater tuition stream. Moreover, if the campus were to decide that it would be better to enroll fewer students so as not to strain resources it could do so only by losing the state funding that it was supposedly getting from the Anderson conversion.
But there is another issue and it is a financial, philosophical, and political issue. For at least a decade now, the University leadership has refused to acknowledge the true costs of the decline in state funding. On the one hand they have shifted the burden of the cost of education onto students and their families through rising tuition. On the other, they have shielded the legislature by continuing to enroll students beyond state support. In so doing, they have implicitly told the legislature that things are not all that bad and resources not all that strained.
What does that have to do with Anderson and the larger issue of conversion to SSP? The proponents of conversion insist that there are no alternatives given the immediate crisis. But that is not true. To take one other option, the campus could, if it wished, decrease the number of over-enrolled California residents and increase the number of NRTs. If calibrated correctly the campus would be able to increase its resources and still exceed its numbers of state-supported students.
Compared to SSP conversion the campus would be better off financially. Politically, the University could make clear to the legislature that if it wants to meet the needs of its constituents it needs to address the funding crisis in Higher Education.
The most difficult question is a philosophical one. Dramatically increasing NRT is a bad idea. It threatens to disengage the University further from California residents. Doing so runs the risk of becoming like the Michigan system which is not the paragon of privatized quality that people have assumed (even in terms of rankings let alone relationship to the state). But the move to SSPs is even worse. It misleads people into thinking that privatization is the answer by hiding all the various subsidies from the public to the SSP. Moreover privatization is never temporary. NRT can be reduced in
exchange for increasing state funding. And UC should commit to doing so in exchange for adequate increases in state funding.
President Yudof faces a set of alternatives. He has the power to ignore the conclusion of CCGA and therefore effectively dismiss the heart of shared governance. He can ignore all of the issues raised by CCGA and others about both the educational and financial implications of the conversion and therefore effectively allow ideologically driven donors to drive the shape of the University. Or he could engage in a serious and open debate with the University community about the real range of options available. I prefer Door Number 3.
14 hours ago