09 April 2012

UC decline

UCOP's recent memo to the Regents outlines the effects of years of ruthless cutting at the University of California (thanks to Bob Samuels for the pointer):  
  • At UC Riverside, [students] will walk onto a campus where enrollment has grown in the last three years by nearly 3,000 students – many of them the first in their families ever to attend college – while at the same time the number of faculty has been reduced by five percent. The result: class sizes have grown by 33 percent. Introductory physics classes that used to average 95 students have exploded in size in three years to 573 students.   
  • At UC Davis, students will find an acclaimed medical center that has eliminated all State supplemental support for clinical care. Just as the campus’ athletic program had begun to mature, four sports had to be eliminated to help meet the need to make $106.5 million in cuts in four years.
  • At UC Santa Cruz, students will be provided with 84 fewer course offerings and their class sizes will have spiked 33 percent. The student-faculty ratio has exploded by nearly 15 percent, and the campus lacks funding for 125 faculty FTE – 14 percent of its faculty positions. Yet for all the cuts, the campus still faces a daunting $38 million budget gap.  
  • UC Santa Barbara has over 1,000 more students than it did three years ago, but the number of staff has declined by 450 (nearly 11 percent) during that time, and the faculty has remained the same size. The results are fewer student services, larger classes and discussion sections, and reductions and eliminations in many programs.   
  • And across the system, pension costs alone will rise to $1.8 billion annually in the next five years – an expense that campuses did not have to shoulder as recently as three years ago. If there is no increase in either State funds or tuition during this time, campuses will have to find the equivalent of funding for 7,000 staff or 3,900 faculty to fund this expense alone.
  • At UC Berkeley, despite its more mature capacity to raise private funds and attract non- resident students, the campus forecasts that – even with stable fee increases – it could face at least a $200 million budget gap within six years due to exploding pension contribution costs.  

Similar conditions exist on every other UC campus – from UCLA and San Diego to Merced, Irvine and Santa Barbara. The University faces an unprecedented threat to academic quality.   While this is a welcome change from the fiction that the University can absorb whatever cuts the state throws at it, the memo engages in some measure of wishful thinking when outlining possible solutions to the current dire situation, from increased indirect cost recovery to private philanthropy. 
Perhaps the most promising avenue is the multi-year funding agreement with the state included in the Governor's latest budget. But the agreement is contingent on voters' approval of the Governor's "revenue-enhancing initiative" this fall, failure of which would result in another $200M mid-year cut. 

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