14 October 2010

UCOF final report

The UC Commission on the Future adopted a final draft of its report at their meeting on Oct. 11. The draft is available here.There does not seem to much new in the recommendations that were actually adopted:
  1. Shorter time to degrees, and easier CC transfers so that more students can be put through UC without increasing faculty, housing, etc.
  2. Endorsement of the pilot project on online instruction.
  3. Increase in out-of-state students paying non-resident tuition.
  4. Adoption of "multi-year tuiton schedule" (this is one is a recognition that further tuition increases are forthcoming; rumors are getting around that the Regents will increase tuition by as much as 20% at their November meeting).
  5. Increased indirect cost recovery rates, which supposedly would bring in an extra $300M a year.
  6. Increased "administrative efficiency à la Bain, bringing in as much as $500M a year in savings.
  7. Development of "self-supporting" programs on the model of the business schools.
Savings of $300M in grant overhead, while desirable, seems far fetched, and likely to encounter resistance in those departments that actually bring in grants. And $500M in administrative efficiencies seems frankly like pie in the sky.

More ominous than the adopted recommendations, however, are other measures considered elsewhere in the document. The report concludes with "contingency recommendations" to be considered should the financial situation further deteriorate:
  1. Curtail student enrollment;
  2. Reduce the amount of tuition set aside for financial aid (historically 33%);
  3. Raise or eliminate the system-wide limit on the proportion of nonresident students;
  4. Substantially increase tuition and fees, including charging differential tuition by campus;
  5. Downsize the University’s faculty and staff workforce
  6. Forego new building and capital projects that are not absolutely essential for safety. 
As the report itself makes clear, the introduction of differential tuition by campus would go a long way towards undermining the nature of the system as a 10-campus university.  It is also surprising that the downsizing of faculty and staff apparently "came to the Commission from the Academic Council."

Finally, let me point out an action item on the UCOF agenda under the heading "teaching and curriculum" (not in the draft final report of UCOF). After noting that innovation calls for the introduction of new programs, the document points out that "Adding new programs in a zero-sum environment requires eliminating or reducing program investments elsewhere." The item calls for Provost Pitts to identify "best practices"  for program review. While it's not clear whether such procedures fall under the purview of the Provost (as opposed to the individual campuses), this recommendation would seem to call for procedures for shutting down or consolidating under-performing programs around the system. [I was not able to find out the outcome of UCOF's vote on this, but I assume it was adopted.] 

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