08 October 2009

The new hybrid model and the future of UC

As is well known, UC Pres. Mark Yudof has been a staunch proponent of a "hybrid" model for the University, i.e., a public-private partnership characterized by high(er) tuition, less public funding, and corporate sponsorship. Now, UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau and Vice Chancellor Yeary have come forward with an alternative hybrid model, this time characterized by a federal-state partnership. (The proposal can be found — appropriately — in the WaPo, but has been published elsewhere as well.)

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.


  1. UC Layoffs, Furloughs Budget Cuts: $ 3 Million Extravagant Spending by Yudof/Birgeneau for Consultants - Work Can Be Done Internally.
    Save $3,000,000 for teaching students. Do the work internally with the resources of the UCB Academic Senate Leadership (C. Kutz/ F. Doyle), the world – class UCB faculty and staff, & UCB Chancellor’s stable of blotted staff (G. Breslauer, N. Brostrom, F. Yeary, P. Hoffman etc) & President Yudof.

    President Yudof has a UCB Chancellor that should do the high paid work he is paid for instead of hiring an East Coast consulting firm to do the work of his job. ‘World class’ smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the analysis, hard work and make the difficult tough decisions to identify inefficiencies!

    Where do consulting firms like Bain ($3,000,000 consultants) get their recommendations?
    From interviewing the senior management that hired them and will be approving their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled government oversight agencies and the public? Impartial consultants never bite the hands(Birgeneau/Yeary) that feed them.

    Mr. Birgeneau's performance management work accountabilities include "inspiring innovation and leading change." This involves "defining outcomes, energizing others at all levels and ensuring continuing commitment." Instead of demonstrating his leadership by fulfill the senior management work of his job, Mr. Birgeneau outsourced them. Doesn't he engage University of California and University of California Berkeley (UCB) people at all levels to help examine the budget and recommend the necessary $150 million trims? Hasn't he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina - which also hired Bain -- about best practices and recommendations that might apply to UCB cuts?

    No wonder the faculty, staff and Californians are angry and suspicious. Three million dollars is a high price for students and Californians to pay when a knowledgeable ‘world-class’ UCB Chancellor and his bloated staff are not doing the work of their job.

    A reminder UC/UCB: California is in an economic recession! Save $3 million.

  2. SAVE uc/ucb $ 3,000,000. . Contact Chairwoman Budget Sub-committee on Education Finance Assemblywoman Carter 916.319.2062 and tell her to stop the $3,000,000 spending by Chancellor Birgeneau for consultants.