Based on the (correct, but too often forgotten) principle that public universities deliver a public good, Birgeneau and Yeary advocate a new Morrill Act that would see unprecedented (for this country) direct participation of the federal government in higher education.
According to this proposed plan, the federal government would make a direct commitment to a few "great" public institutions such Michigan, Illinois, Rutgers, and of course Berkeley to
provide sufficient additional funding for operations and student support to ensure broad access and continued excellence.In addition the federal government would enter a 10-year agreement to match 2-1 any private funds raised toward the endowment along with a 1-1 commitment on part of the state. So if, say, Berkeley were to raise $150M a year for 10 year it would end up with a $6B endowment.
These are the outlines. What to make of it?
Like Yudof's own public-private hybrid model, the Birgeneau-Yeary proposal moves from the assumption that state support is gone for good. This might well be true, but so far no serious arguments have been put forward for it, except exhortations to Realpolitik (which are just that, and no arguments at all). The assumption itself might not be as well entrenched anymore, now that the pain caused by fee increases has finally become visible, at a time where other powerful economies around the world are investing more and not less in higher ed.
If we grant the premise, then again I think UCB is correct to try every possible avenue available to them to save such a great University. California is better off with a hybridized UCB than with none at all. That much is clear. And the Birgeneau-Yeary model would certainly appear to be more stable than the Yudof model, which would rapidly accelerate towards complete privatization.
But notice how both hybridization models so far proposed will inevitably lead to the break-up of the UC system. This is much is clear in the UCB plan: Berkeley would get a federal bail-out, and the other campuses will be left to sink or swim, as the case might be. But the same would happen on the Yudof model: the ten campuses cannot conceivably privatize (or hybridize) at the same speed, and this again would lead to a top tier (UCB, UCLA, maybe UCSD) raising tuition and establishing private partnerships, while the rest would be gradually be absorbed by the CAL State system. There is certainly not enough demand in the State for college instruction at the private price point, and even any out-of-staters would naturally gravitate towards the flagships.