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Sobering Report on KQED

I heard this driving home Friday night: a radio report about how some good California high school seniors are reluctant to consider UC because they know cuts will continue and quality will continue to decline. This was truly disheartening to hear. We need to restore education as a public good. California Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative which will probably be on the ballot this November is a good place to start. It funds K12, and to a lesser extent community colleges, rather than UC, but it represents a step in the right direction.

University of California or University in California- guest repost

today’s (re) post comes David Meyer, a Professor of Sociology and Political Science at UC Irvine.

The future of the University of California is even more daunting for organizers than the troubled present.

The problem: Students, faculty, and the citizens of California have interests in both access to the University system and maintaining some degree of excellence in the system. It’s extremely hard to focus on both issues simultaneously, and it’s hard to know who to work with and who to trust.

Over the past five years, the University has been fighting losing battles on both fronts. As the state of California has consistently cut funding, the University has cut spending and programs while raising tuition. Most of the ten campuses are working hard to increase the percentage of out-of-state and international students, who pay much higher tuition. It’s a viable revenue strategy, but it’s understandable why California taxpayers are incensed that their University has less room for the young people of California.

Meanwhile, ongoing cuts to programs are affecting the quality of education UC students receive. Saturday’s New York Times reports that students face fewer classes, larger classes, tougher admissions standards, less attention, higher tuition, and even a less demanding education. In addition, applicants seeking employment opportunities have found it increasingly difficult to secure jobs in the NCAA (though that is not to say the situation can’t be helped by a good cover letter). According to the Times, every student may still have access to an academic adviser, but each adviser is now responsible for 500 students (rather than 300 in years past). Is that access? Many professors facing larger classes with fewer teaching assistants now require less writing, shorter and fewer papers. (When I came to UCI, about a dozen years ago, each of my TAs was typically responsible for 80-90 students; 120-140 is now more typical. If this doesn’t seem like much of a difference to you, try to imagine reading and commenting on 40 ten page papers.) Students are unlikely to complain about such reforms, but they’re certainly not being helped.

The University’s management, seeing state support as unreliable, is explicitly moving toward a model where the campuses can function with less of it. A few states have maintained excellent universities with declining support from their state. The University of Michigan, for example, gets only about 17 percent of its budget from the state of Michigan. It charges nearly $40,000 a year in tuition from out of state students, and those higher paying students make up about 40 percent of the undergraduates.

The Michigan students who gain admission can get a great education even as the state continues to cut support, but fewer Michiganders can get in. I’d guess that fewer of the graduates are going to be eager to stay in the state after graduation. The University will be responsive to the people who help it keep operating. State legislators and tax payers who are getting less deference and responsiveness from the University are even less likely to want to contribute to it. Yipes!

This is one possible future for UC campuses, and it’s not an attractive one. The Council of UC Faculty Associations is ringing the alarm bells about adopting a Michigan model:

UC President Mark Yudof and Governor Jerry Brown are working out a deal behind closed doors that will loosen the most important ties between the university and the state…

Although they will both praise the deal by saying that it “stabilizes” funding while granting greater “flexibility,” its essence is that each will let the other off the hook: UC will mute complaints that it does not get enough money from the state and the state will stop holding UC accountable for the money it still gets.

The likely result is that UC will dump a larger number of eligible Californians onto the CSU and Community Colleges, which will in turn pass on their overflow to for-profit schools, where students take on inordinate amounts of debt with a very high likelihood of default.

* UC will no longer promise the state that it will admit a fixed number of California students in return for the enrollment funding that the state provides. For next year, and presumably from now on, UC will be allowed to use taxpayer funding as it pleases, without being accountable for the number of in-state students it educates (http://www.lao.ca.gov/analysis/2012/highered/higher-ed-020812.pdf, pg. 19). This means that UC is likely to enroll fewer California students, and to replace them with out-of-state and international students who pay more. The likely result is that UC will be able make more on average from its enrollments, that the state is likely to pay less, and that middle-income Californians will get less access to UC…

UC will be able to say that how much it spends to educate Californians and how many of them it enrolls is its own business, and not the state’s. If UC thinks its traditional mission is a money-loser, it can now use its continuing, but declining, revenues from the state to diversify into fields where it sees a brighter future. It will not be expected to draw on its other, more entrepreneurial, activities to subsidize public higher education, but instead will be allowed to use state educational funds to subsidize these other activities — and especially the capital projects necessary to get them off the ground…

An alternative model is to focus on delivering whatever we can with limited funds, continuing to increase class sizes, cut salaries, maintenance, and offerings. It is definitely possible to spend less, but only by providing less. Look: the California State University system delivers less and charges less. Of course, CSU is also facing severe cuts. Many states have decided to forgo subsidizing a top-flight research university system.

That’s another possible future. Alas, I fear that focusing only on stopping tuition hikes leads that way. Californians who want a top flight research university education can apply to institutions that deliver it–and find a way to pay.

Probably like most faculty, I’d prefer to return to the system laid out in the Master Plan more than fifty years ago–high investment and minimal tuition–and to pay taxes for it.

Lots of Californians will disagree with me, which is fine, but they should articulate the model they prefer for public higher education. There are plenty of real examples out there, but please don’t lean on the imaginary ones, in which spending can always be cut without compromising what’s bought. We’ll never get more than what we pay for.

A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College

Read the New York Times article with the above headline here.  The total amount of student debt is now over $1 trillion according to this article.  It’s touching that people will pay so much to get an education, and sad that they have to.  Declining state support is not a law of nature—it’s a choice, and we have to make the case that education is a public good.

Davis Dozen update

update: new court date in June (As someone who studies social movements, the delay tactics here are fairly familiar. constant delays make it hard for everyone, even passive supporters, to keep track of what is happening, especially as the end of the quarter approaches).

here’s the update on the UCD countersuit against US Bank for Breach of Contract

Davis Dozen Update

the end of the quarter is coming fast, and then the summer lull will likely take its toll in terms of media and broad interest in campus politics. But, the Davis Dozen case certainly continues. Read this on yesterday’s court appearance

UC Security culture

today’s guest post is from Susan Kaiser in Women and Gender Studies
Dear colleagues,
When I read the fascinating article Suad Joseph shared about the May Day “warning,” I was trying to figure out why I didn’t remember receiving that message from UCOP, so I started searching… The Aljazeera article cites an earlier article in The Nation:
Then I found this article in The Daily Californian indicating it wasn’t Yudof or UC, but rather iJet (the private risk management and intelligencecompany—known as “the CIA for businesses”):

UCOP says that Yudof warning travelers to avoid May Day protests was false

So, if we book travel with Connexxus, we’re automatically linked to iJet, who gets our itinerary. Or if we get travel insurance, it’s coordinated with iJet, apparently since 2009:
UC travelers will also receive warnings about “travel conditions,” including anticipated protests and other “threats,” as well as earthquakes, etc. The goal seems to be to reduce liability for the university, as the following blurbs from the iJet website indicate:
Duty to Disclose: This concept focuses on an organization’s responsibility to monitor and disclose potential risks. For example, if there is ongoing civil unrest in a city, an organization has an obligation to disclose this to travelers so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not to take the trip. An organization could claim that it did not have knowledge of this risk, but then a court would likely ask, “Should the organization have known?” Given the number of available sources of information, including free sources such as government travel warnings and cable news as well as relatively low-cost services such as those offered by iJET and others, a claim of ignorance may not hold up in court.
iJET supports clients across a broad range of industries, including:

Universities aren’t mentioned on this list, but in an interview, one of iJet’s directors does mention them:
As a client of iJet, UC (presumably UCOP and UC Chancellors and VC, such as Meyer) receive daily “briefings” regarding hot spots around the world–including our campuses and cities presumably. This may well set the stage for, and contribute to, a culture/mentality of (in)security, fear, anxiety in the UC administration…
Oh, and iJet is in Annapolis, Maryland, and its employees include ex-spis. The company does some of the kinds of things that the CIA used to do but is now outsourcing.
Anyway, yet another example of privatization–and a rather creepy one that seems to explain something about UC’s culture of (in)security… On the surface it may be about “travel risk management,” but if there are daily briefings/alerts, etc. that include warnings about potential civil disobedience, it can’t be that good…


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