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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Feeding the Cuts, Part I

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.

The repetition of the annual ritual raises an obvious question: why should anyone care this year more than they did last year, or in 2009, or in 2004?  Each year the public hears the same expressions of disppointment and resignation from the universities and the same claims of more or less reluctant necessity from both political parties in Sacramento.  Each year hundreds of thousands of students start college in California and hundreds of thousands graduate, and life goes on. 
One major change is the end of even the appearance of a balance of power between the pro-cuts and the pro-education sides.  The necessity argument now gets daily steroid injections from born-again austerity fundamentalist Jerry Brown, who is Hooverizing the state economy with permanent cuts in every public program designed to preserve or improve the state’s human capital:  from K-12 to Cal State to Cal WORKS, “The Poor Just Got Poorer”, and the phrase would be a good candidate for a new California state anthem.  But there have been no matching steroid injections from the other side.  
No legislator thinks they might be voted out of office for excessive cuts to higher education.  No one in a position to make a credible threat is willing to make one.  Progressives and educators have no full-time political party, and no political whip equivalent of the Club for Growth, which regularly threatens members of its own party around its core issues, these days regarding their temptation to  raise the debt ceiling. 
Higher education exerts no such leverage.  Governor Jerry Brown took higher education hostage in an attempt to force Republicans to support putting tax extensions on the ballot (see clip): the political calculation was that Republicans would be more upset if he shot UC than if he shot, say, CalWORKs, or at least might get more pressure from their conservative constituents.  UC President Yudof ceded Brown’s first $500 million cut in January in an effort to “do all it can to help the state,” but then drew  a line in the sand against the further $150 million cut. The response of Gov. Brown and the Democratic majorities was to cut the $150million and promise another $100 m cut if the state doesn’t make current revenue projections.
In a small-d democratic political world in which political representatives are directly accountable for the effects of their acts, destructive actions bounce back against their perpetrators. In that sort of world, compromise with your opponents might get you something.  In our current political world, compromise gets you nothing: Brown doesn’t need Yudof, or any of us, and Sacramento doesn’t care about the rest of the state, because we never do anything to them.  There is no logical endpoint to this for UC's budget: not $2.5 billion in general funds, not $2.3 billion, not $2.0 billion, not $1.65 bilion, etc.
So how do we make it stop? How do we give Sacramento a reason to make it stop? 
My suggestions involve two corrections and an answer.  The first two steps involve fixing public university tactics, with UC as the case I know best.  The latter is an issue of international importance to the future of public education.  I will devote a post to each of these.
 1. If you don’t like constant cuts to public funding, stop showing public funds can be replaced with annual tuition increases.
Here’s an example.  UC President Mark Yudof officially opposes privatization. He described privatization to a roundtable of UC student newspaper editors as “the point that I get out and march with the students."  He defined the unique mission of public universities as great research and teaching quality for the nation’s highest proportions of low-income students. This is exactly right – Yudof is in effect describing “mass quality,” the original core of the postwar boom’s widely attractive vision of social development for everyone. 
This was the best ever justification for high levels of public funding.   Public higher education is not about the manificent training of a Harvard-style “natural aristocracy” to rule the rest, but about the superb training of each of us.  No other theory of education – universal higher education, not uniform, but universal – scales to the enormity and complexity of the simultaneously cultural and technical problems that our societies all face.
But a bit later in the same conversation, Mark Yudof says, “if you mean [by privatization that] students are paying more and more of the cost of their education that seems to be the road we’re on.”  But of course that is the main form of what the students and everyone else means by privatization.  Yudof accepts this form of privatization, and implements it very frequently. UC’s de facto official position is high-tuition / high aid -- really high tuition logically in only a few years time -- and echoes the standard private university American funding model that the publics slowly started to adopt after 1980.  
 So which is it, UC?  Is it no privatization, or continuous privatization in annual increments? UC is on both sides of the question intellectually, and on the side of continuous privatization in practice. The net impression left by Yudof’s sometimes eloquent remarks is that the public mission can  be satisified by private money --high fees in conjunction with financial aid, for the state’s historically most diverse and underfinanced younger generation.  UC policy gives the public no reason to oppose tuition increases, especially when they hear financial aid is good or when their own children are out of college
Interestingly,  UC leaders are going against public opinion here: a recent PPIC poll suggested that three-quarters of respondents think that public universities are underfunded and that two-thirds of them want to raise taxes rather than raise fees.  But if UC leaders don’t fight for zero fee increases, as a precondition for forcing solid public funding, why should the public do it for them?
The special tragedy of this ambiguity is that we already know what happens when we subject public universities to a mix of cuts and austerity. It’s very simple:  educational attainment goes down. The US had a comparative educational advantage over the rest of the wealthy world for about 150 years – first at the high school level and then in college degrees. Now, for the first time in U.S.  history, younger people are less educated than their baby-boomer parents (Measuring Up p. 5, John A. Douglass, Goldin & Katz, . . .).   This decline coincides exactly with the steady shift in public colleges and universities from high public funding to high private tuition.
If you are wondering whether privatization caused this destruction, the answer is yes it did. Very briefly: private investment – anything from donations to student fees – logically tries to maximize its return, and thus piles in at the top, where attainment is already strong.  Think of Meg Whitman building the most expensive dorm in history at her alma mater Princeton University.  Private funds never adequately support the colleges with the highest percentage of low-income or otherwise disadvantaged students, which also generally have the lowest graduation rates.  This is also true of a unique place like the University of California, where large numbers of low-income students had for decades lept whole quartiles of attainment in a four-year bound.  Private money doesn’t have the scale, the scope, the social ambition, or the interest in those who start at low or medium levels, and thus can’t budget the overall American attainment rate that depends on moving those groups in huge numbers.  The attainment rates of the lower three quartiles haven’t improved in thirty years (Mortenson, June 2010), That’s all the time it took for the country’s pro-private funding model to destroy the country’s global educational leadership.
The first step towards saving public universities is to stop acting as though annual fee increases can replace the public funding that made US higher education great in the first place.  They can’t. (UC leaders know they can't, but it's the annual increase actions that count.) They never will.  Public funding will never come back as long as universities keep offering this phony and painful substitute.


Catherine Liu said...


We should enlist Diane Ravitch, a tireless critic of private initiatives in K-12 education to talk about the broader goals and ideas around public education in general. Private testing companies, private foundations have tried to define accountability in K-12 ed and she is a tireless defender of public school teachers. I appreciate your own defense of public funding for higher education in California, but the broader the case we can make for the lupine tactics and groupthink of the Blums and Whitmans, the stronger our own arguments will be.

TB said...

> If you don’t like constant cuts to public funding, stop showing public funds can be replaced with annual tuition increases.

This sounds good in principle, but what's your suggestion concerning the actual implementation?
I can pretty much see only one other way: a fervent lobbying campaign, with TV ads targeting specific politicians when they stand for election etc. Yet I have serious doubts in the efficiency of such an approach. Firstly, the boat may be long gone. We are too far down the road, such a campaign might have been effective had it begun in the 90s, or at the very latest when Yudof took over and our Governator decided to break the latest compact he had signed with Dynes. Instead, Yudof went on record refusing to blame Schwarzenegger personally. Secondly -- and the latest budget shows this clearly -- we are being screwed by the very people whom one would expect to be more sympathetic to the cause of public education, i.e. the Sacramento Democrats, which really means that we have no political leverage. "You don't like us? Try the other side!"
Educating the public sounds good on paper, but I am really, really pessimistic about it. Just read the comments below any of the mainstream articles about cuts to the higher education, and you'll get the idea. It's much easier to scare voters with the prospect of releasing third-strike pot smokers then appealing to their senses, particularly in the times of great economic uncertainty. Fear works wonders -- that's why the prison guards' union runs the show while we are being left in the ditch, time after time.
So I don't really see what else we can do other than raise tuition. In fact, that's what we should have been doing all along, and we should be doing it according to a well-publicized formula: if the state support drops by X, the tuition is *automatically* going up by Y (with the reverse process also possible, should the state get some sense and actually restore funding). This way the students and, more importantly, their voting parents would not be blaming the Regents, but instead they would lay blame where it really belongs -- at the state legislature. If we can neither convince nor scare the voters, our only option seem to be making some portion of them squeal financially. And I am not saying this with glee. I do feel for them, I just don't see any other options. That's why we have to be very honest, upfront and dispassionate about this (hence a well-publicized formula for tuition increases).
Now, there should also be some house cleaning that goes with that. Even though we know that the current cuts go all the way to the bone, the public at large does not have that perception. There isn't much fat left, but what *is* left is very visible. The upper level of bureaucracy must be trimmed, both for our own sake (if you can't adequately support us then at least stop making extra rules and policing us, we are not criminals after all) and for the sake of public perception. Do we really need Vice Chancellors for Conflict Resolution when the class sizes are ballooning and *meaningful* administrative support is being taken away? No, seriously?
Secondly, our leadership has to be very politically savvy about how we are perceived. (Their very public salary figures are not being helpful, but I will not go there.) What I mean is *showing* at every turn that we have been already cut to the bone. I can list a number of political blunders such as insisting the furloughs could not be taken on teaching days. My opinion on the subject did not fly too well with many well-meaning colleagues, including those on this forum, but look where well-meaning has got us. The message should be crystal clear: any cuts should and will be detrimental to the survives we provide to the state (i.e. teaching its residents); there is no more slack left here.

TB said...

By the way, before I am accused in being blunt or insensitive to the (very real) needs of the middle class, I want to make something clear. I am a science professor, and what I really value is a vibrant *research* university. Whether its public or private is secondary to me. Being myself a product of public education, both oversees and in the US, I do value its public nature. I also enjoy being able to give back. Yet my real passion lies in research and although I am a competent teacher (if one were to believe evaluations), I am not looking forward to doubling my teaching load. Yet is seems that the only alternative to raising tuition would be making UC more and more teaching oriented. Personally, this is not the kind of university I want to be a part of, and I know that my opinion is shared by many in the STEM fields. And before you call me selfish, please remember to be honest about what you mean when you argue that UC is the economic engine of the state.

So, back to my original question, what realistic alternatives are there to annual tuition increases?

Chris Newfield said...

Catherine- I agree completely.
TB - I agree completely, except for an important detail. I'll discuss tuition-based "reverse shock doctrine" in Part II. You're absolutely right that X -> Y should always have been the logic of UC's response. Now it needs to say look, here's what "high-tuition / high aid" quantifies out to be - $25,000 in 2015, going to $40,000 -- unless you (1) return to the principal of mutualized costs underlying taxes and allow this to remain a public university, and (2) grasp the case for "21 century learning" that we need the money to support, meaning we are going in the opposite direction from UC-TV because that's what everything from "energy security" to basic social peace and prosperity requires. Part III will discuss (2). I understand the high risk involved in what will seem like a game of chicken, but that's what we have been playing anyway, and losing, without core tools such as the basic clarification of the costs of our utterly necessary research dimension as you also point out. UC admin feels it has to play short term defense in a game that they can't change, when unfortunately the only way to win now is to change the game. I think the outcome of using real fee numbers would be the public realizing finally what is happening and applying real pressure to the legislators that currently can convince themselves that another thousand or two in fees won't really matter that much (helped by the foolish Blue and Gold claim of indemnifying all non-rich students from hikes - see Larry Gordon's last in the LAT). So the alternative would be, put crudely, panic-induced restoration of public funding or, an undesirable Plan B that is better than current decline, systematic, coherent privatization based on non-annual and much larger, purpose-driven fee increases tied to a change in UC's basic nature. I do NOT want the latter. But that option should be constructed and widely disseminated as a real option, far worse than Plan A, but better than the piecemeal and now accelerating decline of our current Plan C.

Catherine Liu said...

I have to concur with TB that we have lost this game. No "public" will emerge to defend us under the present circumstances and the reasons for this are fairly complex. I don't think that comment sections in newspapers are a good barometer for public opinion, but I do think that the UC is not going to be a rallying cry for Californians. Public education, especially K-12 has a better chance of mobilizing voters, but with the rise of assessment culture, charter schools and private education for urban middle classes, K-12 public ed has a hard time attracting public support. Protest culture has been so anemic during this round of tuition hikes because the students have reached a similar conclusion. Like TB, I want to be at a research university. Many faculty and admins believe that a UC education is undervalued, so they believe that there is room to raise tuition. If I am understanding you correctly Chris, you want us be tactical about the real costs of a UC education and the ethical costs privatization rather than assuming it as a default position. How do we apply "real pressure" on legislators? I would like concrete ideas. I've been lobbying Congress for the NEH for two years, and I'm ready to go to Sacramento.

Chris Newfield said...

Catherine - real pressure on legislators comes through big donors, sometimes through voters, and sometimes by creating unmanageably disruptive situations that threaten politicians' image and position. (1) Forget big donors, who mostly come from the top 1% that now has zero stake in great public education. (2) For faculty and staff, "voters" starts with students and parents. Faculty need to get their story together for them: how have cuts hurt teaching and learning? How have cuts hurt research? How have cuts hurt their children? How can we get back "21st century learning" for them and not the cut-rate version of a mass delivery model for which few of us have any nostalgia? We need many many posts on this and not just Tom Lutz plus Remaking plus one journalism class at Irvine in 2009-10 (please tell me I'm missing a lot). We need to learn more from our students and their parents: what don't they like about their courses? What are their intellectual goals that are or aren't being served? What are the stereotypes about faculty and universities that we need to address operationally and not with more PR? What does "research" mean to them? What would they like professors to research that matters in their own lives? Faculty also need to talk to other faculty: what are we being told privately by administrators that is demobilizing most of us? How are people really feeling about what is going on, and where do they see themselves in five years - still at UC? At another university? There are a lot of holes in our understanding that need to be filled if we are to have a solid grassroots strategy, but the core idea is listening to and solidarity with voters and society as we all try to rebuild California together. (3) Now that Mark Yudof has started to worry publicly about faculty departures, why doesn't the entire UC faculty go on the job market? "Real pressure" on legislators would also come from faculty strikes. And it would come from real cuts in services in EXACT PROPORTION to the cuts being dished out by the state, which year after year UCOP sucks up by diluting per-student services on the campus level for no obvious political payoff. Since nobody wants "to take it out on their students," meaning admin and allied staff in student services et al can gut any faculty movement with a few days of sustained guilt-tripping as they did in Fall 2009, they there's perhaps more immediately telling the truth about what the phrase "room to raise tuition" really means. In a desperate "market" to deliver top-quality public education in meaningful rivalry with Stanford and Princeton in one way and with Occidental and Pomona in another, it's $25,000 going to $40,000 in-state within five years. That should be lain at the door of the past and current governor and the legislators, and they should be shown with a couple of powerpoint slides that although they prefer to think they are just tightening UC belts for a couple of years, in fact they are destroying a uniquely successful form of higher education that was one of the glories of the nation - one that can only be saved with 40k per student thanks to their stupidity The current "room to raise tuition" earns us 25 cents on the dollar we lose in public cuts, so faculty who like the current policy of 8% a year except in the 20-32% bad years aren't thinking straight about the money. The idea that these annual hikes/cuts are somehow helping research is also false, since research is even more vulnerable than teaching to the annual losses racked up by the hikes/cuts cycle. If the statement is, Either stop raising tuition or we'll double it by 2014-15 (with our mega Blue and Gold plan etc), and then take it "to market"(40k) since nobody cares about our quality except us: there will be pressure.

that's a start. better ideas are more than welcome.

Bob Samuels said...

I think the comments here reveal part of the problem. First of all, as I have stressed, it does not matter how much money the UC gets from the state if UCOP redistributes it using a secret formula. Second of all, until we change the tax structure or get a prop 98 for higher ed that guarantees a funding level, there is no way to increase UC's state funding. Thirdly, comments like the following from TB above turn the public off and feed the false opposition between research and teaching: " I am a science professor, and what I really value is a vibrant *research* university. Whether its public or private is secondary to me. Being myself a product of public education, both oversees and in the US, I do value its public nature. I also enjoy being able to give back. Yet my real passion lies in research and although I am a competent teacher (if one were to believe evaluations), I am not looking forward to doubling my teaching load. Yet is seems that the only alternative to raising tuition would be making UC more and more teaching oriented. Personally, this is not the kind of university I want to be a part of, and I know that my opinion is shared by many in the STEM fields. And before you call me selfish, please remember to be honest about what you mean when you argue that UC is the economic engine of the state."
We can have better quality teaching and research if we stop pitting one against the other. The University's neglect of instructional quality has to be countered by the faculty.

Catherine Liu said...

I want to return to the question of concrete actions: what is the first small action we can take as faculty to make our case for public funding of the UC? Arguments about instructional quality and research are BOTH important, and if you've read the recent work by Arum and Roksa, you will see that Universities have generally not been serving their students well. But who is our audience? Upper administration or the public or our fellow faculty? Chris and Bob have been doing some of the work of organizing statistical and anecdotal evidence in favor of high quality teaching and research within the public university, but we have not convinced a large enough proportion of the faculty that a strike, or organized "going out on the market" are effective internal strategies for putting pressure on admins to put pressure on the state. So what can we do within the scope of our capabilities to educate/mobilize white collar professionals, whose self-interest and professional identities are deeply bound up with the hierarchy of the university system that they have a stake in collective action? The degradation of teaching conditions may be one point that cuts deeply across the disciplines and can be one area where we can point to the clearly negative effects of cuts and tuition hikes.

Chris Newfield said...

Catherine - I would still say talking quietly and peacfully to (and learning from) faculty about how they feel about their new research and teaching conditions, and talking to / learning from students and their parents about what is happening to them in the new UC vs. what they want to have happen. There are lots of other things worth trying - we're in a new situation of repeated one-way cuts where politcally-allowable tuition increases can't balance them even if we want them. The situation requires experiements - chris

Michael Meranze said...

I would suggest something along the lines of what you and Chris have mentioned but with a slight twist. One of the problems that we face I think is that faculty--as faculty--have failed to indicate clearly enough what it is that we want to be able to accomplish within a university in order to press the administration to try to make that happen. So I would ask people, what is it that you would like to be able to do with your teaching and research? How would you want to be able to bring those together into a more coherent or wide-ranging scholarship (which includes both teaching and research)? Are you able to do those things? If not, need to be made in order to make them possible. Who else would be interested in similar things? etc. The same thing can go with talking to students about what they hope to get from their education. But I think that it starts with the faculty. "TB" makes a point about wanting to be in a research university. Fair enough. But the only alternative to a research university is not a teaching university or college it could also be a private lab. Why have you chosen to be in a university in the first place? Isn't it because there are connections between teaching and research that you want to pursue? Are there ways to better organize that? My point--and I know I have made this before so I may sound like a broken record--is that if faculty don't assert their own vision of the way the university should work and press administrators to find a way to make that happen then someone else will define our institution for us. Bob S is right that in the short term at the very least the needed state funding seems very unlikely. So that means we need to start having conversations and other efforts to figure out how we can make the university function more productively for us and more educationally for the students. But it needs to start from the bottom up because we have seen what happens (UCOF) when they try it from the top down.

Unknown said...

Wage concessions by faculty, chancellors, vice chancellors at UCLA will arrest tuition increases and save UC.

Less words and more deeds UCLA Vice Chancellors Faculty and UCOP!

TB said...

Michael -- indeed, a private research lab would be a viable option for me. In fact, as the UC "climate" continues to deteriorate, such option becomes progressively more appealing. When I got my faculty job, I thought that a noticeably lower salary was a good trade-off for "perks" like academic freedom and job security. I also do enjoy teaching, I just don't want it to be my *main* occupation. It seemed at the time that a UC job was offering a good balance of things I value and enjoy doing. During my less than 10 years as a UC faculty memeber, I keep watching the situation turning from bad to worse. More and more of my time is wasted on things that should be (and in many places still are) a responsibility of administrative assistants. While the meaningful support infrastructure for both teaching and research is disappearing, the "compliance police" are only increasing their visible presence driving me and my colleagues up the wall. Speaking of why the costs of running a university keep rising, one should probably take a long, hard look into all positions whose job description includes the word "compliance", but I digress here.
So back to Michael's question - a job as a researcher in a private lab is indeed becoming more and more appealing. Of course, it depends on the lab (just like it depends on the university). So far, I think that a *good research university* job (with enough resources and support) is still a better deal, it's just that the way things are going, UC may not remain in that category for very long. I am, however, inclined to go on the job market next year to see what my real options are at this point, both in academia and in the private research world.
Chris has mentioned that perhaps our best and strongest weapon would be if *all* UC faculty dissatisfied with the deteriorating state of affairs went on the job market.

Finally, Bob - I'm not certain what your beef with my earlier post is. I am definitely not trying to pit teaching against research, I simply stated what balance between the two I consider personally acceptable. I fully realize that I am free to leave should it tilt in the direction I don't like. That's why I think it is important for me to explore my options, otherwise I'd be sounding like a whiner. Just for the record, I am both tenured and sufficiently well extramurally funded, so the opinion I am voicing here is not a case of sour grapes.

Bronwen Rowlands said...

It's all so much worse than we knew.

If you haven't heard about what the Center for Media and Democracy has unearthed about our poor country, take some time to absorb this:


That said, I think a faculty strike would be terrific. But it had better happen soon.

Bronwen Rowlands said...

I forgot this second, critical link:


cloudminder said...

also see :




this information became available as a result of a data leak and whistle blower speaking out-- The Nation is covering it well.
with regard to UC Fac :

-maybe go to Sacto not just as lobbyist but also as SMEs for ex officio regents in particular (you can explain a lot of stuff better than the folks at the panel table of regent meetings)

- just please don't become the equivalent of what the Jackson Hole Group became to the health care movement in the Clinton years -- but look at that model for how to create partnerships within the system to talk about public higher ed and carry weight in the discussions-- its a different form of lobbying that let's you have direct contact and exchange with decision makers.

- what is happening with the plan to revive faculty conventions mentioned in Catherine Cole's piece? or did everyone drop that idea b/c in the present day it would be like herding cats?

There's always Asilomar...

Gerry Barnett said...

As a practical suggestion in this thread: University research is being starved by the 26% cap on administration in federal F&A, further hammered by an F&A rate that is 1/2 of what industry charges the government for similar services, and F&A costs are further hit by government research compliance mandates. UC could start by leading a national effort to demand the federal government raise the F&A rates, even if that means fewer grants overall. UC can raise F&A for foundations and industry awards immediately. That is absolutely what would happen if UC research were spun off as private operations. Do that, instead of continuing the habit of research subsidies drawn from instruction. Sure, a have vibrant research community, but not one growing with funds essentially looted in secret from students, for their instruction.

If you want the State to fund research, then make a case to the State for *research*. The economic impact "studies" funded by UC campuses that I have seen appear to be statistical shams--and clearly are not persuasive to anyone. UC loses about 20 cents on every research dollar received. Either explain to the public how important it is for their subsidy to go up every time a vibrant researcher wins another grant, OR ask that vibrant researcher and his or her retinue of administrative squires to get the remaining funds from somewhere--the sponsor, gift funds, industry (in the case of federal and foundation funds), OR cut the administrative costs for the grant.

I for one do not accept the premise that students seeking an education should have to go into debt so that researchers can pull down very nice salaries and at will demand that students *increase their debt* simply by going out and getting more grant funding. That's not excellence, that's *disrespect*.

TB said...

Your condescending tone notwithstanding, I don't disagree with much of what you have said. If it were up to me, I would definitely get rid of much of the compliance nonsense (and associated bureaucratic costs). In fact, I wonder if it could be used as a leverage when negotiating the indirect cost rates with federal agencies: either reconsider the additional compliance mandates or provide additional finding to cover those. This is, however, an issue that should be raised with the administration and not with us, researchers.
Now, while I would like to see the math behind your statement that "UC loses about 20 cents on every research dollar received", I do not have facts to argue against this number (albeit it seems high to me). It does indeed seem likely that UC loses money on its research activities. However, I do have issues with such a simplistic attitude towards research, its costs and benefits as you seem to be displaying here. (It has been also voiced by others in the past). Here is the reason:
research counts heavily in the standard rankings (whether it's fair or unfair is irrelevant here). Students (and their parents) by and large want degrees from higher ranking universities. So I'm not so certain that my getting grants and helping improve the standing of both my department and my university is actually *disrespect* to students, *even if it costs them more*. The accepted value of the product we deliver to them (education) is not fixed, and I would argue that degrees from universities with vibrant research programs are valued higher. And this value is not purely superficial (as in 'based on questionable ratings'). When I have research funds, a much bigger chunk of those goes into paying graduate and *undergraduate* students for doing research than into my "nice salary". Let me translate it for you: those funds actually allow me to train students in actual research, which adds value to their degrees. Have you accounted for that while offering your "practical suggestion"? I thought so...
Now, I'm all for both transparency in the UC accounting and being honest with the students about what is that they are paying for. Yet peddling the idea that internally subsidizing research is equivalent to "cheating" students is way too simplistic.

Gerry Barnett said...


Gerry Barnett said...

In fact, the big outside grants lose money, and are supported in part by cross-subsidies from high-enrollment fields in and out of the science and engineering fields that bring in big, important, and yet very costly grants. UC has officially acknowledged this. For example, the third sentence of a Regents's item in November 2010 reads, "The UC system incurs $600 million in unreimbursed indirect costs every year." A San Francisco Chronicle report on the original UCOF discussion of this issue put the figure at $720 million on $3.5 billion in research revenues, or a loss of about 20 cents on the research dollar. The Academic Senate's indirect cost recovery report calcuates that ICR is about 25% while true indirect costs "appear to be in the 65-70% range" (p 5).

TB said...

Thanks for the links. But as have already said, I fully accept the fact that extramural grants lose money for UC. What about the actual subject of my post? Certainly, there are cross-subsidies that are a part of operating a university, just like there are cross-subsidies in the society at large. Simply pointing at those and drawing an immediate conclusion that they are bad or "disrespectful" is precisely the kind of logic that drives the anti-tax crowd in politics. I tried to argue that there are definite benefits to university as a result of such cross-subsidies. Whether it's a *net* benefit is open to discussion, and I would like to see such a discussion, although I am clearly not a disinterested party here.

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