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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011
UC students, who will pay about 18% more in tuition next year, will be interested to know that the California State Auditor, which has now released its much-anticipated report, defines student fees as public funding (p 9). Their reason is that student fees are "obtained as part of [the University's regular course of business."  This explanation makes no sense at all, since federal research funds are also obtained through the regular course of business, but these taxpayer monies are classed with philanthropy and other things as private and thus excluded from this study.  This founding blunder misstates UC's actual financial condition, for some reason UCOP doesn't object to it, and the Auditor's other very important points, discussed in parts 2 and 3 of this post, are compromised by Sacramento's near-delusional inability to recognize the damage it is doing to public higher education.

This is an important report based on a lot of serious, thoughtful work.  But there are some problems, like defining student fees as public funds.

Last May I saw an email from UC's VP for budget Patrick Lenz, a lead UC negotiator in Sacramento, that included this bizarre sentence: "the only voice to agree with the UC that a $500 million budget cut does have an impact on the state’s funding of marginal cost per student was the LAO [Legislative Analyst's Office.}"  I read that sentence many times, since it seemed to be saying that all but one of our state agencies believe that a state budget cut doesn't mean that state revenues are being cut. I wrote several people for an explanation and didn't get one that made sense to me.  But apparently Lenz was exactly right, because when the state cuts its funds, UC raises tuition, so public funding stays the same - right??  Wrong! This year's tuition increases net 26% of this year's cut (pp 12-13), but even if they netted 100% student fees are not public funds.

Instead of looking into this, the state press has established the lede as the Office of President's differential allocations of state funds and tuition that have created a pattern of rich and poor UC campuses (Table 5, p 33) (see also Samuels and Cloudminder). I'll discuss this in Part 2, and some important technical points the report makes in Part 3. But first, let's look at how good UC has it thanks to our students' generous public funding of their university out of their personal public pockets.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011
The statement below was drafted by the following members of the Academic Council, but it has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Council. It is what we intend to keep saying in meetings, and it is what we would like to see the Senate say, at every opportunity.

Jim Chalfant, Chair, University Committee on Planning and Budget
Mary Gauvain, Chair, Academic Senate, UC Riverside Division
Susan Gillman, Chair, Academic Senate, UC Santa Cruz Division

When state budget cuts force UC to choose among access, affordability and quality, we believe that the Academic Senate should fight for quality as the University’s top priority. This means taking all possible measures to prevent further erosion of UC’s excellence, especially for undergraduates, and to prevent jeopardizing the future of the University as a whole. The state’s abandonment of the Master Plan extends well beyond consequences for the public and private shares of the cost of a UC degree.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The major news of this UC Regents meeting is yet another student fee increase – 9.8% on top of the 8% already voted for 2011-12 (and another 12% at CSU), with an additional 5.9% mid-year increase possible in January.  On the other hand, a UC fee increase isn’t news, since the Regents raise fees every year (18 of the past 20), sometimes twice a year, and a third of the time by more than 10% (Mark Yudof’s count).  Annual fee increases of 7%-10% were programmed into the Compact for the few years that it ran in the previous decade, and they are logically entailed by the view of a vocal faction of Regents that include board Chair Gould, über-Regent Blum, and shadow-Regent Crane that state funding “is going away.”  Such comments renew the state’s license to do exactly that, even though the pessimism is well-founded in recent experience with the state.

Behind the finger pointing, higher education funding is a discourse and a practice that is created by thousands of interactions among political, business, and educational leaders every year, with contributions from the peanut gallery comprised of students, staff, faculty, and the general public.  It is a collaborative product.  The combination of flat or falling funding and fee hikes have with rare exceptions been annual staples of the budget process for twenty years.  They are a co-creation of states and higher education, and now follow each other as the night the day.  The result was nicely summarized in an epitaph  from Reclaim UC – each defeat becomes the point of departure for the next one.