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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Analysis of Charles Schwartz Plan for UC

by Gerald Barnett, University of Washington

Here is my summary of Charles Schwartz's plan. It is worth considering. I apologize if I bungle stuff here. I’m aiming to draw out some of the points in the plan that recommend it to my thinking. I recast the plan’s points under 3 major heads and rearrange the parts somewhat to help me get it clear.

Open Budget
Make budget and policy discussions open
Use language proper to education and scholarship
Lead the Regents and nation on these matters

Undergraduate Commitment
Account separately for undergraduate education costs
Cap total resident undergraduate fees at the total undergraduate education costs
State subsidizes undergraduate costs for the needed, and generally as it is able

Research & Administration Reassessment
Justify or eliminate $600m/yr in recent administrative growth
Cap executive compensation at 2x average the compensation of full professors
State commits to reliable funding for core research (faculty, grad students, and overhead)

This approach opens two dialogues with the state--one for undergraduates and one for research/graduate education /administration. Doing so allows UC to argue for funding elements separately that may have different bases of political support. If there are state concerns about one of these elements but not the other, then the problematic one is holding the other one hostage. Disaggregating the two will allow UC to see if this is so. This step might be iterated for elements in the research dialogue as well, giving the state an opportunity to show where the support is stronger or weaker for various elements. This step ought to be done regardless of anything else. If both funding streams lack support, there will be no difference in the overall outcomes of state funding. But if undergraduate education has the stronger support, then at least the undergraduate component can be taken care of, and attention turned to what is needed, politically, to make a case for the rest of the funding.

Following Prof. Schwartz’s analysis, undergraduate fees appear to cover their costs. If this is the case, then there is no cash flow problem for undergraduate education but for UC administration *making it part of the problem*. This would be an expected “budget trick” for working the legislature in typical times. UC doesn’t have that now, however, so a new approach is called for. A clear, open accounting by UC would confirm or qualify whether undergraduate fees cover the costs of undergraduate education. The state is asked to help needy students and provide a general subsidy for undergraduates as it can. That's something the state can do within the present funding to UC. This approach makes a clear proposal for the state: will you support these talented students? Whatever the state comes up with is “on the margin” and is passed on as a direct benefit to students, both needy and generally. It’s the best proposition UC can offer the legislature with regard to undergraduates. Certainly it is better than raising tuition by 30% now, and no doubt more later, in some sort of crisis-bound administrative lupus attack on students and families.

The bargain over research and graduate education is a separate issue. This is a deeper challenge. There is more going on here than with undergraduate education, with a greater range of budgets and inter-relationships. Also, it is where the status of UC would appear to rest, where the strategic importance to the state in training graduate students gets sounded out, and with it the distinctive position UC has within the California higher education scheme in the conduct of research. The plan takes the form of a bargain. It is a true bargain, not just “compact” that UC will have business as usual and the state will throw money at it, but that each must commit to something of value to the other. Whatever happens, a plan with a bargain in it—one that UC can show to the public—provides traction. For this bargain, UC must first account for its own administrative growth in terms of positions and compensation. At least $600m is in play here. Without a complete, open, intellectually honest accounting, one might argue that UC supporters in state government have little leverage to work on UC's behalf. There will have to be cuts for this bargain to work—of positions, of salaries, of layers of organization. One might even expect that the more UC trims, the more likely there will be support for what is strategically important to the state in what’s left. Again, there is an easy “budget trick” of threatening to lop off something valuable or noisy (a journalism department makes good noise this way, historically), or both, and then use that available rallying energy to bring the legislature around. This budget trick also has to go. The stuff to trim off is the stuff no one really needs in a time of crisis. It’s not faculty or academic programs. At least not until the administrative part is made right. I do not know of anyone outside of UC administration that is willing to make the case that UC administration is hunky dory and its something else that has to go. That’s a political reality, whatever the self-rationalizations that might go on. If there’s going to be a fight, let’s have it be over what parts of administration we don’t need in a crisis, rather than pitting science faculty against humanities, or core faculty against professional programs, or campuses with higher rankings in some Chinese university or popular magazine-compiled list against campuses that are lower on such lists. The Schwartz plan brilliantly ends these skirmishes and places the burden on administration first.

If there is to be UC contraction, it must start with administrative positions, organization, and compensation. If there is less of UC—and there already clearly is that—then there needs to be a lot less of the administrative component. This is sad for individuals involved. I don’t wish anything ill on them. We are talking about tails and dogs, however, and honestly, administration is nearer the tail end. In a time of crisis, that’s what needs to go. If various administrative positions are unproductive relative to the new economic realities of UC, then these need to go first, not be drawn into an extra administrative burden of deciding what academic programs to cut and how to manage, say, faculty furloughs and respond to student protests. Finally, if UC compensation is a problem, then if there are going to be losses due to reductions in salary as people take better offers elsewhere, these should start with the administrative side of the house. If these adjustments are unacceptable, then new leaders should be identified. If there is going to be a brain drain, then it will start with the administrative brains. One might add: administration is not management. Management is not the brains of the operation; faculty are not the labor. Administration serves the faculty in the proper order of things, and in a financial crisis it serves the faculty by sacrificing its convenience and privileges. The public expects this. The public is waiting for UC administration to admit it. There will be no leverage in the legislature until it is done. ‘Twere good that it is done quickly, then.

The state support for this core budget beyond undergraduate education also opens up a discussion of the role of UC in providing research for the state. It’s one thing to have a generally wonderful world stature. It’s another to be able to show a direct interest in the research needs and advanced degree training needs of California communities, industry, and local governments. This is a key part the land grant ethos, as well as part of the founding instruments for the University of California. In assessing priorities for funding, UC might expect that the general reputation of campuses (such as “rankings”) might not be nearly so compelling to the people of the state as showing that UC expertise and significant research efforts the state is asked to fund have direct benefits for the state. Perhaps an open, intellectually honest accounting for these efforts would also go some way toward giving the state reasons to argue for funding the state component of the research budget, especially if the university has cleaned house with regard to multiple layers of administration.

These are not easy things to do, but then nothing is these days. Contraction of administrative and state research elements rather than contraction of the whole at the expense of undergraduate education appears to have a lot of merit as the place to make the bargain clear. Make a commitment to the undergraduates, the most vulnerable of people in the whole arrangement. Then work out how the rest of the state supported work will be funded. For that, there won’t be any movement without a miracle or a bargain, and as the former does not admit of planning, one might think the latter has much to commend it.


Anonymous said...

Here are a few random thoughts on Schwartz's plan and the situation in general.

I like Schwartz's concept that as a general principal students should not be asked to pay more than the cost of their education.

More generally, it seems that a logical way to proceed on this situation would be to identify some overarching principals, such as the one mentioned above, as a framework of where we want to be down the road.

Actually implementing this overarching set of principles as a UC governing framework will take some time. Hence merely doing so would not solve the immediate crisis, because we still have to get through the next few years of budget reductions. But at least it would be good to have an established set of general principles that we could agree upon and be working towards.

For any individual student, approximating the cost of that student's education seems simple. The salaries of the faculty are public records, and students can easily determine how many students and classes the faculty are teaching in any quarter. So at the level of any individual student, estimating the cost of education seems a matter of simple math.

Then there is the issue of cross-subsidies between programs.

Many experts believe that generally speaking in the modern research university education ends up subsidizing research. Overall, this is probably true.

However some research sponsors pay much more indirect costs (IDC) than others. Those research sponsors insist on paying low IDC rates clearly are more like to require subsidies from other programs.

The same applies to many "gifts" for research.

Just as there is variation between subsidy rates for different research projects, similarly its well known that some education programs cost more than others.

By accident or design, the accounting methods used by modern universities make it nearly impossible to know what many things really cost.

Researchers who bring in grants like to boast about how many millions of dollars of IDC reimbursement they bring in.

But these same people are also bringing in millions of dollars of administrative expenses to the university which would otherwise not be necessary. They seem to forget this at times.

In his book "The Decline of Academic Dogma", Robert Nisbett presciently foresaw some of UC's current problems.

One of Nisbett's main points is that the education function of the University, considered by itself, really requires very little administration. Nisbett was writing at a time when all faculty were paid the same across disciplines, and administrative cost have risen since he wrote via unfunded mandates like sexual harassment training, for example, but Nisbett's main point that the offering of classes per se requires relatively little administrative overhead is still true.

Much of the University's administrative burden is research-related.

(continued in next comment)

Anonymous said...

(continued from previous comment)

Something else to consider is that administrative costs are going to be exponentially related to organizational complexity. The exponential nature of this relationship is key. As the university has become more and more complicated organizationally, this exponential relationship has caused administrative costs to shoot up.

As a long-term principle, it seems reasonable that the university should say that every activity should generate revenue streams to cover it's own cost.

It there has to be cross-subsidation, it should be explicit and not covert.

To accomplish this, the organization structure has to be incredibly simplified. This will take some years to accomplish.

Large academic departments administering millions in Federal Research grants as well as education programs out of a combined business office need to be broken up. There should be research business offices and academic business offices, but not hybird offices doing both.

Combining these two functions in a single business office is merely a trick of modern research universities to hide the millions of dollars of costs related to writing Federal research grant proposals, a cost the Feds don't pay for and no one else explicitly funds. This cost is increasing as the "take rate" on grant proposals is dropping.

So if it were up to me, I would organizationally break out the research and the teaching of the large departments doing funded research into separate organizations.

There also needs to be major reduction in duplication of effort. But a structural problem is that few high-paid administrators want to voluntarily say they need less funding. Very few administrators are going to voluntarily turn back funding. This is a structural problem within the organization which has to be dealt with somehow.

Also, as Schwartz, Newfield and others have said, there needs to be much more transparency.

And the need for transparency and organizational simplification go hand-in-hand, since right now UC's organization is so incredibly complicated that no one really can understand it all, even if they have access to the data. (UC is probably typical in this respect of the typical large, modern research university)

So we need tremendous amounts of organizational simplification along with the need for transparency.

Finally, for perspective, its useful to remember that the modern research university as we know it today hasn't been around for very long. It's basically something that has grown up since the 1960's. Even though UC has been around for much longer, the university as we know it today was really an organizational experiment. It was an ambitious experiment, but it some ways it was doomed to fail. It is failing and it needs to be reworked.

SIO prof said...

I agree with Prof. Schwartz's recommendation for reducing UC administration, but I disagree with his premises for separating the undergraduate education and research components of UC's mission.

Here are some questions.

1) If the state really cares about UG education, why is CSU so bad off?

2) If students care only about teaching and not research by their professors, why do they generally prefer UC to CSU?

3) If students prefer to go to a university where professors do research, why should we recommend that student fees should only cover the cost teaching and not research?

Note that I am not advocating the "privatization" of UC -- I just don't think it makes sense to have separate revenue streams for the teaching and research missions of UC. That's not what UC was founded for, nor why students wish to attend UC.

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with the above I don't think it's possible to separate out graduate education costs from undergraduate - or it is possible only at the price of misunderstanding what 'undergraduate education' really is.

Are graduate stipends a cost that should be associated with undergrad education? On one level, obviously not. On the other, without grad stipends, there will be no grad students (or only rich ones, or only lousy ones). Good faculty would leave to places with better grad programs - so the quality of both the faculty and the grad students who teach would decline - and hence so would undergrad education.

I am all for cutting admin and bloated bureaucracy - but it is a mistake to try to isolate 'undergrad education' as a budget item - the University stands or falls as an institutional whole. You cannot have good undergrad education without the rest of it.

Humanities Faculty Member said...

SIO Prof asked: "If students care only about teaching and not research by their professors, why do they generally prefer UC to CSU?"


18 year old students simply don't have much understanding of the research side of things. A few do, but they are truly exceptional.

Motivated students can get just as good an education at CSU-Chico as Berkeley, but they might have to work harder at it. Moreover, the "credentialing" of a Berkeley degree is worth much more. This has nothing to do with student interests in faculty research per se.

SIO prof said...

I certainly agree that most students are more interested in status than in research, but status comes primarily from faculty research.

If students want the status, then they can't expect to pay only for direct costs of teaching (that is, if the state won't contribute to UC like it used to).

Gerry Barnett said...

I do not see anything in the Schwartz plan that asks undergraduates only to pay for their education. The point is that there is a case to make to the undergraduates about why they, rather than the state, should be funding the research and administrative side of the house as well.

Similarly, there's nothing I see in the Schwartz plan that compels the conclusion that separating the accounting for undergraduate education and other matters that requires separation of missions. The plan shows an approach into the discussions, asks for transparency and accountability, not apologies for the status quo and a continued "politics of caution" to use Clark Kerr's phrase. If there's a case to be made for undergraduate support for administrators, then let's have it. If there's a compelling argument for how research informs instruction, let's hear it again, in the presence of some decent figures regarding just how the finances work out.

I will underscore the importance Schwartz places on the choice of vocabulary. How ever will UC orient to an acceptable direction by trying to translate its situation into corporate management-speak? As Jim Collins would have it in Good to Great and the Social Sectors, discipline and focus are not distinctively business attributes. What I see in the Schwartz plan is a way to get at things. For each element that might be impractical (like an administrative salary cap), think of it as a starting point that brings the core activities such as undergraduate instruction out of financial crisis by reducing the administrative contribution to that crisis, and then working back toward the administrative load that the state, or undergraduates, or donors, or university "industries" are asked to pay.

Finally, in all the discussions I have had on the subject of status, peer reviewed federal awards appear to be the gold standard. Extramural funding is not an issue here. The research and administration funding that is on the hook is that which connects with state initiatives, such as the Discovery programs and the California Institutes for Science and Innovation. Again, as I see it, and Charles Schwartz will be better than I will be to put a point on it or correct me, but if one takes this approach, the analysis has a great chance of focusing the attention of legislators on programs that directly affect their districts. Obscuring all that behind general claims about the integration of research and instruction, and the administrative complexity to run the whole affair is part of a largely failed two decades of rhetoric. Why not try something different for a change?

SIO prof said...


Your reading of the Schwartz plan is quite different from mine.

Point 3 of the Schwartz plan sounds exactly like asking students to pay only for their education.

"The Regents shall declare as a matter of firm policy that mandatory fees (tuition) for resident undergraduate students at UC shall never exceed the average per-student Cost of Undergraduate Education, as determined above."

Farther on Schwartz implies that students don't benefit from the research mission of UC.

"The Research mission of the Public University is still a Public Good; and it seems wrong to pass that cost on to students."

Gerry Barnett said...

SIO Prof... You are right on the details... the Schwartz draft does aim for a cap... but I read it as asking UC to make a case for the connection between administration and undergraduate instruction--administration is not excluded from costs of instruction or tuition but is put up as first to justify the growth in administration--costs apparently being passed on to the students.

Should undergraduates be paying for core research administration, and likely disproportionately more as a group, than graduate and professional students? That's the question I see this approach setting up. It has some logic to it, no? It doesn't mean there's no possibility of cross subsidies. It means: explain them. Explain why undergraduates in a time of crisis should be carrying the load for 5 years of administrative growth, and why they should be (apparently) bailing out core research administration without any clear, public, disciplined self-examination or justification by administrators, for their part.

With regard to the research mission, again, the mandate in UC policy is that the cost of extramural research is to be covered fully by the sponsors. That's nothing new in Schwartz's plan. He just restates it. The question that remains is why, if this is UC policy, that the administration seeks from undergraduates in a time of financial crisis a subsidy of 30% increase in tuition and fees without even hinting that the increase is to support core research administrators salaries.

Again, Prof Schwartz will be the one to speak to his intent. I may be screwing it all up. I take his plan as a starting point for an angle into this mess, not a take-it-or-leave-it final expression of how things must end up. Perhaps some subsidy by students for research is a good thing. Maybe in fact students if presented with the connections would concur. Perhaps administrators demonstrate some portion of their growth is really important and faculty agree with this, too. The broad shape of the approach Prof. Schwartz puts forward is what interests me: show it, and show it grounded in academics and not in business-like terms.

What has anyone put forward that comes close to dividing the issues to make clear priorities in a crisis to establish a starting point for getting at a complex problem? That, perhaps, is something we should expect a physicist might be really good at. My thought is it is worth exploring. It would be a shame to throw out this kind of approach on details before gaining some sense of the big picture.

Unknown said...

The problem is that state legislators cannot sell funding faculty research and graduate students to their constituents; they can sell funding undergraduate education--.i.e. this is for your sons and daughters. We have faced this problem for many years in trying to get Sac to value graduate education as much as it does undergraduate education. So to separate the two enterprises will result in a decline of those sectors of faculty research and graduate education that are not industry or federally funded, since the state will also not fund them. Therein lies the rub.

Anonymous said...

I think a good example of what Jenny is talking about is the use of State 19900 funds to offer a large six-figure start-up recruitment package to a new junior faculty hire in the Sciences.

Nominally these are called "State education funds". Presumably calling them educational funds sounds better to some, but in reality they are nothing more than State funds generally intended to stimulate future Federal research grants.

For the non-science undergraduate who is being taught in larger classes by adjunct faculty and graduate students the benefit of this use of State education funds is doubtful.

This is not to say that Science research isn't valuable or that it isn't a good State investment, but merely that calling it education funding is, from the perspective of most undergrads, a misnomer.

SIO prof said...


I appreciate many of Prof. Schwartz's contributions, but I think promoting the idea that undergraduates do not benefit from faculty research will definitely undermine UC. If California wants its students to be taught by top scholars, then the state and students must pay for faculty research.

Of course, it is a large problem that undergraduates are often not taught by top scholars. UC professors need to get back into the undergraduate classroom. This applies to me -- I do very extremely little undergraduate teaching! Why? Because the current system does not reward undergraduate teaching, either for individual faculty or for units such as SIO. It's much better for the individual faculty member and the unit to bring in more extramural funding.

Charlie Schwartz said...


Did you receive the comment I posted earlier today (Thursday)?

Charlie Schwartz said...

It is very good to see a serious discussion of these ideas; and I thank Gerald for getting this started so well. A major obstacle to previous attempts at spreading these ideas is the familiar concern expressed by Jenny: this is the old fear, among faculty at any research university, that “they” don’t understand or appreciate the value of our research work and so we hide that cost under the cover of Instruction. In the old days when the state paid for all the core costs of education and research, one could justify that accounting by saying that both education and research are “public goods” and are paid for with public money. But with the rapid rise in student fees – under the philosophical justification that students gain a “private good” and should therefore pay for it – that old arrangement must be reexamined.

To ask the question, “Who is paying for what now?” does get many colleagues upset. However, I believe it is a necessary first step before one can discuss “Who should pay for what in the future?” Opening this topic is also important in trying to build (rebuild) respect and support for higher education among the general public. To focus on this topic also sharpens the distinction between public research universities and private ones.

I have found that colleagues in the arts and humanities (and some in the social sciences) are the most upset by this attempt to separate costing for undergraduate education from costing for research (I, along with most everyone else, do not try to separate graduate PhD programs from faculty research.) There is understandable anxiety that the familiar disparity in funding between the sciences and the humanities might get worse under the sort of separation I propose. It is up to all of us faculty members to stand together and not allow any such deterioration. We can and must enunciate the difference between a University and an Institute of Industrial Technologies.

I hope some will look closer at the details of my calculation disaggregating the cost of undergraduate education. I do allow for some allocation of research work to the cost of undergraduate education, following the data provided in the faculty time-use study. I also include cost of libraries, administrative and facilities overhead, student services (a very large component) and even some capital costs. But all of those details are open to debate, better data, and negotiation.

Again, the principles involved here are in no way unique to the University of California; they apply to all research universities.

Anonymous said...

A new compensation plan to better reward researchers who bring in extramural funds, similar to the Health Sciences plans, should be part and partial to the new accounting system to better segregate costs.

Gerry Barnett said...

I'll try again. Forgive my persistence.

Parsing the financial problem by starting with undergraduate instruction does not mean that what follows will be a failure to make a great case for the importance of research. Research supporting education, research supporting economic development, research enhancing professional status, research feeding the imagination through curiosity-based investigation. All these things are still available as part of the public debate and the guiding administrative decisions. There are positive stories to be told.

These stories won't be told if there is no good route in to the financials. The politics of caution says: "Do not attempt to explain the financial condition of the core academic functions of the world's top university. Just stay with the standard simplifications that have been repeated for years to the public until we have come to believe them ourselves. Keep the status quo now or it's all up."

If Prof. Schwartz's numbers are a guide, it's the $600m of administrative expansion in recent years that should be considered before hitting on the undergraduates. It's that $600m load that should be considered before letting research faculty pack their bags for Texas.

I'm reminded of Matthew Stewart's account in The Management Myth of the phases of the whale hunt (pp. 68-69). Phase 3 is "eating the brain": "The key to establishing an enduring presence is to colonize key functions in the client's central nervous system. A good place to start is the planning function. Send the existing staff on long and impossible errands, and then steal their office space. Make it impossible for the client to think without you." Phase 4 is "metastasis".

The Schwartz proposal is, among other things, about determining whether there's been such a colonizing going on. Put up your best public argument (undergraduates) against the biggest expansion of cost (administrative growth), and audit the rest against the core state needs (regional research and economic development).

The great bargain in this plan is to support the undergraduates outright and joyously, reducing the uncertainty for the greatest number of families, and aligning faculty with these folks; then, do what the state is willing to fund for regional research; and reduce administration (positions, functions, salaries) to ensure that extramural research and graduate education remains robust.

Pit administrative priorities against graduate/professional education and state funding for core/regional research. Keep undergraduate instruction and extramural research out of it. Should the state fund (A) rampant administrative growth or (B) graduate/professional education and the core research done distinctively for the state? This is a fair distribution of the hurt. This is an appropriate place to make a stand. This is the crux of the crisis.

Folks have a golden opportunity to roll back some of the red tape that haunts every action with two or three layers of review, committees of committees, consultants advising on the hiring of consultants. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Anonymous said...

Some commentors on this blog seem to assume that the growth of UC's administrative costs must be due to the proliferation of high-paid administrators at UC.

But is this necessarily true?

I suspect rather that the bulk of the dollar growth of administrative costs is probably more related to the legions of relatively lesser-paid staff who are doing routine clerical and administrative tasks. And of course many of these low-level administrative jobs are research-related.

I think it's this "back office" cost that is really killing UC financially. It's not the fault of the administrative staff per se, but simply the result of having very inefficient and extremely highly labor intensive paper-based processes at our research universities.

One wonders why research universities have not developed more efficient systems for contract and grant administration. Presumably part of the reason must have to do with the way the Federal government reimburses these costs.

Maybe eventually much of this research administration work will have to be contracted out to private companies, similar to what has already happened with medical clinical trials, partly because universities simply could not do the work in a cost-competitive way.

But the number of office workers UC employs is astounding. While some of these people are very well-paid; many of them are not. But the shear quantity of desk workers at UC is certainly excessive by today's industrial standards.

And many of these jobs are research-related and not what the public conventionally thinks of of as education-related.

Interestingly, for example, in the discussion of UC's budget published last month by the Legislative Analyst's Office, the word research does not appear even once! So even the LAO seems to lack an appreciation for UC's research mission.

Perhaps some are contented with this budgetary ambiguity because they feel that UC can more readily garner funds from Sacramento if legislators think of this money as being "for education". However the same lack of accounting transparency which obfuscates research spending under the veil of "education spending" also hides of lot of wasteful spending on highly-inefficient and paper-based administrative systems.

Anonymous said...

Disaggregating the budget as proposed here would be the end of UC as we know it. Faculty at UC are hired for many missions -- using time use studies to account for their salaries allows the Legislature to micromanage faculty time. Think of the current situation -- the Legislature would say use the state funds to teach more undergraduates -- that's all we will pay you for -- use your federal research dollars to hire different faculty and grad students to do research. It would cleve UC into separate entities -- those on state funds who would be required to teach undergrads and the rest who can get outside funds to do their research. There is no transparency issue here -- the state KNOWS it is paying for faculty who teach undergraduates and teach graduate students and do research. Trying to do simplistic accounting just leads to legislative micromanagement. Make the freshman engineering student pay twice the freshmen English student. Let's not pay for professions that don't result in jobs. Let's not pay for departments that train political liberals. The state pays for faculty and there are lots of cross-subsidies -- that isn't bad. A University can explain complexity, can't it? Overly simplistic models will lead to overly simplistic universities -- UC will become just another big state college under the proposed mode, make no mistake.

Charlie Schwartz said...

This last anonymous comment nicely presents the traditional fear: We must hide the cost of faculty research or else horrible things will happen.

The call for honest disclosure of where the money goes also has practical implications. When UC announces that student fees cover only 30% of The Average Per-Student Cost of Education that is an invitation to state lawmakers that they can cut the budget they provide us and more of the cost can be shifted to higher student fees. The way UC does that calculation is to include all of faculty research (not covered by sponsored research funds)as part of "The Cost of Education." My calculation, in contrast, disaggregates that bundle and says that undergraduate student fees now cover just over 100% of the cost of undergraduate education. That present an entirely new framework for any public debate about how high student fees should go.

If anyone has a plausible alternative to the faculty-time-use data for allocating costs in an objective manner, I would like to hear about it.

Bob Samuels said...

Currently, it costs about four times the amount of money to educate a graduate student for a year than an undergraduate. It is clear that undergraduates are subsidizing research, graduate education, and administration. Not only is this not fair, but the current move to increase graduate students and decrease undergrads will destroy the delicate balance between graduate and undergraduate education and research.

Usually, when I make this type of comment, senate faculty will say that I want to turn the UC into the CSU. However, I am just asking for more transparency and accountability; faculty want these things as long as they don't threaten prestige.

Senate Faculty also say they want to protect graduate students, but the current system often exploits graduate students and undermines undergraduate education. First of all, 50% of our doctoral students never get their PhDs, and the one's that do get their degrees rarely get tenured positions in research universities. Half of the PhDs looking for academic jobs never get tenure-track positions, so I consider them, and the long-term graduate students who never get degrees, to be exploited part-time faculty. However, the use of grad students to teach sections in large lecture classes drives up the cost so much that most large classes are more expensive than small classes. So, when universities say they cannot afford to teach more students in small, interactive classes because it is so expensive, they are not telling the truth.

Moreover, much of our research mission is being funded out of external grants, but we cannot figure out if these grants lose or gain money because every part of the budget is a fiction.

The solution is to to have more undergrad students, and only bring in graduate students that we can fully support. Too many grad students are now losing their support, and too many undergrads cannot gain access. If we bring in more undergrads, we can make a good case for more state funding. We also have to stop hiding the fact that more than half of the undergraduate courses are taught by lecturers and grad students.

Gerry Barnett said...

Anon 1124 and others. Some would argue that "privatization" counts as the end of UC as we know it. Perhaps you don't want to explore alternatives that shift the financial burden away from undergraduates and diminish the hurt on the lowest paid UC workers. It's the spirit of the age not to, so you are in good company.

You may as well write "frankly, I'm a scared rat and as long as my piece of pie is still good, I'm okay with UC being corporate, students getting hosed with higher fees, and faculty pushed out of key decision making. A little self-interested financial darkness never hurts now and then." Then we'd have your anonymous opinion out in the open. Otherwise, I don't see where you are going with the comments. If you have another alternative, trot it out.

The legislature constitutionally cannot interfere in UC's business. They can cut the overall allocation, and they can fund what UC puts forward as its needs. It's UC's business to present its needs to the legislature in a fundable manner. The Schwartz plan has a chance of doing that by removing undergraduate instruction from the mix of what needs legislative attention.

If there's no compelling argument to make in Sacramento for graduate education, core research on behalf of the state, and administrative bloat, well then, folks have been hiding rotten stuff behind undergraduates to preserve their self-interest. If, however, there are good arguments, then it is time to trot them out directly, and make a case in the clear light of day for them, not try to mix them with the blood of undergraduates every time there is a chance they might be exposed on their own.

UC has gone from a public commitment argument to one of self-preservation of status. Students are the source of new revenue, not the reason for being. A jump of $12,000 or thereabouts in tuition over 4 years is now a matter of whether a boring middle class in-state student saves $92,000 over four years compared to a private university, or merely $80,000.

Gosh, put that way, what does it matter? Folks can keep their salaries, their status, and the whole shining ball of administrative support stuff, all without self-examination or public revelations, since it's just a question now of how much of a discount cheap-minded middle class folks should be barking about for a world-class status-filled exercise in obtaining paper credentials.

The last thing anyone would want then, I suppose, would be to move a discussion that's shaped to be about personal status and self-survival to one made in academic terms, with clear accounting.

Toby Higbie said...

Bob: I'm interested in your point that the Lecture/TA instructional model is more expensive than small classes. It seems counter-intuitive, but I'm all ears.

I completely agree that we have to look at the job market for Ph.D.s and it is unethical to size graduate programs based on how many TAs we need. I don't know that we need to only admit those we can fund, because there will always be some who want a degree and have saved up for it. But we should be moving in that direction.

Bob Samuels said...

The lecturers are a different matter, but when you add the cost of having graduate students teach the sections that go with many large classes, at a certain point, I calculated 125 students at UCLA, the large class with sections is more expensive than a class with 20 students taught by a professor. However, now they are getting rid of a lot of sections and having grad students teach bigger section, so grad students are being told to do more for less.

Toby Higbie said...

Bob: I'm not following you. You mean above 125 students it is no longer cost effective? At any rate, how we structure these classes shouldn't be decided on a pure cost analysis. Then we just duplicating the Gould Commission's "Through-put" model. But if it is somehow less expensive to have professors in direct contact with students, that would be great to document.

Anonymous said...

The last couple of comments make the point above about cross-subsidization -- costs calculated simplistically make it seem like using large lecture classes with grad student TAs is an expensive model -- but think about the need to provide support to the graduate supports, and the experience they get teaching -- these are not simplistic calculations. Saying something is complex is NOT hiding the cost of faculty of research, as Professor Schwartz says -- a great university is created by hiring the best faculty and paying them competitive salaries -- UC has been blessed with high faculty salaries compared to other public universities -- this state investment has paid off if you look at the research and clinical revenues generated by this investment. Disaggregating the current model does nothing but make it easier to change the model and hire faculty for specific missions, rather than hiring the best capable of carrying out more than one mission. I don't disagree with looking at using other revenue sources to better support core instruction or seeking to be more efficient in administration. But the cross-subsidy model should not be abandoned nor tarred with statements about "hiding the cost of faculty research" just because it is complex.

Gerry Barnett said...

Are we are back then to fear and loathing of knowing in the hope that an appeal to complexity will maintain high salaries and business as usual? Perhaps, as Chris puts it recently in another place, it is a trauma that suppresses the subject's own role in having produced the trauma.

Nothing in the Schwartz approach says financials are tied simplistically to missions or duties. Where does that come from? All the complexity of academic life is ever available for discussion. This is not the issue.

The issue is how to build state funding to UC. It's tough making the case for public higher education. It's even tougher when folks within higher ed *don't want to make that case themselves*.

More immediately, if you are going to accept the move from state funding to undergraduate funding, then don't be in denial about it. It's not "privatization", really: it's an "undergraduate credit shakedown". It is both convenient and in its way desperate. The UC offer appears to be "world class status" rather than "world class education." What sort of rationalization is that? The happy feely kind that comes with good salaries (never quite high enough) and the privilege of never having to explain why status should matter more than service? Obviously, it's too complex--yeah, that's it--for the public to understand....

The Schwartz plan says: Show how the money is being used, starting with undergraduate tuition. Show the undergraduates what the 30% increase goes for. Make the case for the core research function, for graduate and professional programs, and for the administrative overhead to ensure a robust system-wide committee to review the risk management plan needed to mitigate risk in risk management plans.

The Schwartz plan takes a major portion of the crisis off the table: not undergraduate instruction, not most extramural research, not medical centers and similar self- sustaining UC "industries". The focus in the Schwartz plan is the centerpiece of what makes UC "UC": core research for the state, graduate and professional programs, and the administration that goes with. Rather than hiding behind the other programs, these should be front and center. Time for them to stand up and make their case directly, not cowering behind undergraduate education and "status". The public justifications for core research and graduate/
professional programs should be compelling. The Schwartz plan says: research and graduate programs should lead in this crisis. Make the UC funding stand there--first with the state and the public, and then if necessary with the undergraduates.

What is left? The UC administration has apparently added some $600m in salary growth in recent years. The question then is: are faculty going to carry this burden for admin without questioning it or even making a case for it? Is it fiat lux or subsisto in obscurum?

The Schwartz public bargain comes down to this: UC will take a disciplined look at non-essential administrative costs if the state puts more money into the research and graduate programs directly focused at benefiting California.

Undergraduate instruction is *already privatized*. The question that remains, is: how is UC going to privatize administration? By taking out a second mortgage on undergraduate debt?

Anonymous said...

A rough approximation of the market replacement cost of any given undergraduate student's UC education can be calculated very easily from publicly-available data by apportioning the instructional salary and benefits of his or her instructors across the number of students those instructors are simultaneously teaching, and adding in some sort of an overhead factor.

For example, say an adjunct faculty is paid $4k to teach a course with 25 students. That instructors replacement market cost per student is $160. One could then add some estimate for the reasonable value of overhead.

Ladder-rank researchers who chafe at market values are, in my opinion, whistling in the dark. Students are not going to go on paying more than a reasonable market replacement cost forever.

Look at the crappy job market these kids are facing! Unemployment among recent college graduates has never been higher.

Another thing to consider too is the blatant inequity of expecting students to underwrite those researchers who hope to gain private commercial profit from the intellectual property from their own research. Of course, this does not apply to most researchers at UC. But thanks to the Bayh-Dole act, etc., there are many UC researchers who can make very handsome personal profits from the results of their research. Why should the students be expected to subsidize this self-interested personal wealth-accumulation for some researchers?

Finally, some will say that the value of being taught by the high-caliber faculty can't be compared to the adjunct/graduate student experience. But the reality is that for many undergraduate students this bait-and-switch has been going on for years at many universities, and no one seems to care or even notice.

Anyone doubting this should read the Staffing section of the recent UCSD Marshall College Dimensions of Culture program, an excerpt from which I will paste below:

(excerpt from report follows)

However, over the years, a troubling pattern emerged in which participation of permanent faculty declined and the ad hoc recruitment and use of either advanced graduate students, lecturers, and temporary faculty increased.

This process of senate faculty disengagement from the DOC Program has continued to the present moment. Thus, in the current (2007-08) academic year, no permanent ladder-rank UCSD senate faculty are teaching in the sequence. Given the importance of the DOC sequence as the introductory general education requirement and initial collective intellectual experience of approximately one-sixth of all entering first-year undergraduates and transfer students at UCSD, the committee believes that this is a deeply troubling, and ultimately untenable, circumstance. Indeed, we believe that staffing by senior ladder-rank faculty is essential for DOC’s future.

(end of excerpt from report. Emphasis in original)

The full version of the report is available online at the URL below. From the report it appears that at least within the DOC program, the absence of exposure to ladder-rank faculty basically went completely unnoticed.

Original online at http://marshall.ucsd.edu/pdfs/Curriculum_Committee_Report_on_DOC.pdf

SIO prof said...


I'm not in disagreement over developing greater transparency in how funding is allocated. My disagreement is over the premise that undergraduates don't benefit from faculty research.

I think students receive the best education when taught by top scholars in field. Top scholars need time for research, and therefore students should pay for part of that (how much is worth discussing). If we no longer believe this, we might as well shut down UC.

As a previous commenter pointed out, most students are interested in status rather than the opportunity to interact with top scholars. That's their loss, and in my opinion, this mercenary desire for status makes it even more justifiable that these students pay for faculty research.

I do agree that it is difficult for UC to argue that faculty research benefits undergraduate education when professors aren't in the undergradaute classroom. This needs to be changed, but in order to do so, we need to revise how individual faculty and UC units are rewarded. At present, there's no benefit to doing undergraduate teaching, at least in my neck of the woods.

Gerry Barnett said...

Why does this bit arguing that research and undergraduate education are disassociated keep coming up? Where is the argument that undergraduates don't benefit from faculty research? It's not in the Schwartz plan or even in my less-than-ept restatement of it. The point is: undergraduates do benefit from the research environment. Make the case for that, to the state, and to them. Don't just assume it or assert it. Demonstrate it. Trot it out. Show that top scholars in the field provide the best learning environment for undergraduates.

I'm having trouble with the argument for status as the basis for undergraduate tuition hikes, though. Perhaps someone will walk us through that one carefully.

SIO prof said...


I've read through almost all of Prof. Schwartz's material, and one of his fundamental premises is that faculty research is a public good that doesn't benefit students. I provided some quotes demonstrating that in a comment farther up. If I'm misunderstanding Prof. Schwartz, I welcome correction from him.

SIO prof said...

One of the common arguments for privatizing UC is that the benefit of UC goes to the students rather than the public. I think we can justifiably argue that the interaction of undergraduate students with faculty research will improve their education and benefit the state as a whole. But if students are uninterested in that and attend UC predominantly for status (because they can thereby get a higher-paying job), then there is no general benefit for society.

This is why it is important for UC faculty to be in the undergraduate classroom and interacting with undergraduate students. If the primary benefit undergraduate students receive from faculty research is a more prestigious and remunerative degree (a private good), why should the state subsidize that?

Anonymous said...

The Schwartz calculations are just based on operating expenses as is the calculation above that divides instructor costs by number of students. Students are paying to come to an institution like UC not solely because of its status, but also because they perceive value. That value resides in its faculty and staff (the main source of operating costs), but also in its physical infrastructure -- classrooms, labs, museums, libraries, artwork, glades, athletic fields -- you add in the amortized cost of the decades of state investment in UC, and the cost per student at the frosh level is probably 4-5 times the Schwatrz calculation. The University of Phoenix and its ilk cream off low cost courses like business and teacher education -- their library is Google and their physical infrastructure is the shopping mall. Yes, technology and the internet are changing education, but there is still a huge value (and not just status) in having students physically located within a vibrant intellectual community.

Saying that UC students/parents are paying more than the cost of their education does a huge disservice -- why would the state invest more in ANY aspect of UC? Why do good liberal arts colleges cost so much more than Univ of Phoenix? UC is delivering a high-quality, highly-sought-after education that far exceeds the calculations of operating cost. The withdrawal of state support is the issue, NOT some distracting internecine fight about internal allocation.

Schwartz and the business types are both heading in the same direction -- disaggregate all costs and charge everyone by level and discipline (be it the state or the parents). The result will be a slow drift toward the Univ of Phoenix -- the things that can pay for themselves will survive and the breadth and depth that make UC will wither.

Gerry Barnett said...

Anonymous 1115 does a good job restating the official future, regrettable as it may be. In the regrettable official future, UC rationalizes taking more money from undergraduates by asserting for them the reasons why they attend UC. In the regrettable official future, they attend for value, and for the opportunity to pay personally and again for the trees and buildings, the coffee shop conversations, the status that attends the paper credential. They also pay for research the state won't pay for, and for graduate programs that supply them with TAs rather than faculty mentoring. Fine, but do these undergraduates attend for the bolus of administration that has built up a $600m nest in new salary over recent years? Yes, regrettably, in the official future, they do. That's what makes them different from folks at the U of Ph. They get to pay much more for all this value! Grrr.

The regrettable official future dislikes the idea of either a corporate or academic framing of the issues and advocates instead for keeping everyone financially in the dark. So much for fiat lux.

The general form is to imagine that any alternative to the regrettable official future proposed will be done badly and so can be dismissed. Perhaps this response projects a history of personal experience onto an organizational future as a kind of true but sadly self-fulfilling prudence. The only joy left, perhaps, is to announce the twilight.

Anon 1115 does, however, articulate the fundamental question: "why would the state invest more in ANY aspect of UC?"

The Schwartz plan, for one, provides an answer: UC should focus on making the case for robust state-centered research (and research infrastructure) and graduate programs while compressing where it can administrative growth salary growth. For once, leave the undergraduates out of it. They are not the poster children for what makes UC "UC", and they are not financial tissue to be caught eating more of in a time of need. The Schwartz plan says: for the sake of everyone in public higher education, find something else to eat. The undergraduate subsidy argument has failed. Lose it. Try, say, administrators making no more than 2x full professors. See if that works better. Are administrative salaries included in *any* ranking of universities for quality or value?

Make the case for research and graduate education. These are the hallmarks of UC. End covert capture of funds obtained by appealing to undergraduate education. Speak in academic terms. Provide an honest accounting without fainting at the requirement not to spin the numbers to cover special interests. Stop the predictably irrational comparisons to corporate compensation and private education, which land grant universities were established to be an alternative to, not to become the same as. Then rally to find the funds for the programs most needed. It's easy if you try.

Just saying. Who is advocating here for the undergraduates as beings being served, not little credit money bags being served up to save administrative investment and avoid an open accounting in changing times? When one moves from I-Thou to I-It, does one feel a change in one's regrettable organizational soul?

Anonymous said...

Unfairly and illogically, almost all of the IDC reimbursement revenues generated by funded research gets siphoned off for other purposes within the university.

A more simplified, fair and efficient system would be to let the PIs manage their own research via fiscally-autonomous research centers, foundations or institutes.

The PIs could be paid by their research practices for the research they do, and by the campuses for the teaching they do, but fiscally the two organizations could be completely separate. The campuses could charge the projects for space or other services used by the research entities. But the accounting could be maintained completely separately.

Breaking the work up into smaller, simpler organizations in this way would reduce the total administrative cost, in aggregate, since administrative costs grow exponentially with complexity.

The research entities could account for the effort of the researcher. The campuses would not need to be involved in effort reporting at all. Campuses could continue to evaluate faculty on their teaching, as they do now, and that system would be adequate to identify any hypothetical teacher/researcher who might be neglecting the former duties in favor of the later. But aside from this, the campuses don't need to be involved in the research effort reporting system or for that matter in managing in any way what the faculty is doing outside of the classroom.

Gerry Barnett said...

Anon 905 makes a great point. UCOF ought to consider.

Not only that, but such "external" but affiliated organizations (some call them "intermediary") could negotiate their own IDC rates with the federal agencies--perhaps doing better at recovering their full costs than does UC now. And if one combined these institutes with the practice plans already available to medical center personnel, one could deal with public accountability, intellectual property, and innovation in much more direct ways. For that matter, faculty could continue to evaluate faculty on their research--how it is selected for funding, what comes from it, how those results are published, what impact they make--regardless of the venue in which the research takes place.

I imagine there are dozens of areas in UC administrative practice that would benefit from similar observations.

Gerry Barnett said...

fwiw, I'll add that in the comments above worrying the impact of the Schwartz plan on university research, folks may have got it wrong about the relationship between undergraduate education and research.

One may argue that undergraduate education *supports* research well beyond any financial measure. The program visibility of swarms of talented undergraduates contributes to corporate and private donor interest and support, which is often (nearly always!)captured for research rather than general instruction. The smart talent of undergraduates continuously challenges TAs and holds them accountable for mastery of their subject where a specialized graduate research program may not. The broad engagement with UC of families supporting undergraduates provides a huge multiplier of public support in political debates--support not nearly so available with only graduate and professional instruction--all the more so because graduate and professional programs are so heavily shifted toward out of state students.

Finally, undergraduates maintain the tone for campus life, and their often populist and enthusiastic interests give a moral frame to research that often otherwise loses sight of community value, and such things as excitement and opportunity and whose future it is, really, that all this research is for.

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