16 May 2010

The Rise of the Cyber-Campus

Christopher Edley, Dean of Boalt Hall and special advisor to President Yudof, has come up with a "fantasy." The fantasy comprises a cyber-campus delivering online instruction (and UC degrees)  "from Kentucky to Kuala Lampur." Dean Edley envisages thousand of students paying  fees on a par with those at residential campuses (as suggested, apparently, but the Governor himself), taking courses designed and "owned" by senate faculty, but delivered by "squadrons" of graduate students.

"Demand will be unlimited,"  the final goal — "global domination." The only bottleneck to the rise of the cyber-campus will be supply of graduate students (and of course, those pesky senate committees, "revel[ing]  in the comfort of denial and the conservatism of greatness").

Asked whether he was "trying to set up a separate online academic senate," Dean Edley replied: "I’m not going to go there."

[A reply by Berkeley's Faculty Association to Edley's presentation is here, and more discussion here.]

15 May 2010

The May Revise

The Governor's revised budget is out. As widely anticipated, it's a mean, nasty budget, aimed mostly at cutting services for the elderly, the poor, and the sick and disabled. The Governor's proposal do do completely away with CalWORKS would affect about 1.4 million people in California, and withdraw support for families of the unemployed including one million children.

The Governor's budget for K-12 and higher education is in line with the January budget, meaning a small increase in funding for UC, CSU and CC over last year's deep cuts (not enough to even making up for years of decline). Some have seen here a clear gamble: threaten to turn California into the only state without a welfare-to-work program, and force the Democrats in the legislature to agree  to cuts in education in return for not annihilating CalWORKS. Since K-12 is protected by Prop. 98 (and accounts for roughly $35 billion of the $83 billion budget), and the revised budget already targets state employees' salaries and benefits, we can expect such cuts, if the Democrats fall in the Governor's trap, to affect higher ed to a greater degree.

05 May 2010

The tale of the disappearing billions

Remember the hopeful news we were getting during the first few months of the year about rising state revenues? Well, the LA Times now reports that those gains have been completely wiped out when April revenue fell $3B short of expectations. Nobody really knows why: it might be that when the Legislature reached a budget deal last year they sped up collections in an effort to bring in more of that revenue in 2009; or it might be that with unemployment at a staggering 12.6% and furloughs of public employees people just don't have as much taxable (or expendable) income.

Be that as it may, the Governor and the Legislature now face an almost impossible task. According to the LA Times,
The retraction could mean even deeper cuts in government services — schools, healthcare for the poor and services for the elderly. Lawmakers may also be forced to consider more reductions in funds for public universities, as well as tax hikes.
Which will of course drive the State into an even deeper economic funk.  The Governor had been making noises lately about restoring (at least in part) funding for UC and CSU. We are not optimistic about that happening any time soon, which might well mean extended furloughs, layoffs, and even deeper cuts for the University.

The Governor's revised budget is due out on May 14. Brace yourselves.