Attending college is a gamble, and here in the UC system all of us are going for broke. The economy has slipped into a nuclear winter and the job markets we have to look forward to are chilly at best. A degree now means a lot less than it did in 1970. For many people, it seems a safer bet to drop out and learn to fix Cadillacs.
Still, we bravely fight on through midterms and finals, scoffing at naysayers while throwing ourselves face-first into the fractal and rapidly evolving world of academics. Dammit, we’re gonna learn us some books.
But there’s a thorn in our side. For the sixth time in seven years, UC administrators are bleeding us for just a little more by raising student fees 9.3 percent, or $662 per student per year. This totals a 107 percent raise in student fees in seven years.
For a pinch of salt on those cuts, at UC Davis we now face virtual expulsion for late registration payment and a $10 increase in already-infuriating TAPS parking tickets. These are symptoms of an endemic budget problem created by administrators with their priorities way out of whack.
Although we’re told that student fee increases are considered as a “last resort,“ the truth is that it’s standard operating procedure. When in doubt, they shake us down. Administrators, senior academics and senior managers (prettier words for “bureaucrats“) are the last to get squeezed.
A UC employee salary freeze is in effect, but that doesn’t apply to benefits and bonuses. Pay cuts for bureaucrats are being considered (wink wink) but to do that, the UC regents must declare a state of financial emergency. Six-hundred sixty-two dollars taken from thousands of students eating EasyMac dinners: acceptable. One less Audi for an administrator: EMERGENCY.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, newbie UC Chancellor Mark Yudof recently appointed new chancellors for UCD and UCSF, doling out massive pay raises to both in a time of economic upheaval. Linda Katehi (rollin‘ at $400,000 per annum) and Susan Desmond-Hellmann ($450,000) will be paid 27 and 12 percent more than the outgoing chancellors, just to say thanks. They also will receive travel, relocation and automobile benefits that most people don’t make in a year ($100,000 ).
Yudof can pick his teeth with those amounts, as he himself jumped from an annual compensation of $786,045 (the fourth highest-paid university president in the country) to $828,000 when he moved to the aptly named Golden State.
The only real defense I’ve heard for the insane price tag is that “administrators are the grease between the gears“ and keep the school running smoothly. First, I ask: Does this look smooth to you? Second, I’d like to point out that it is possible to over-lubricate a machine.
Right now, that administrative oil is sloughing out onto the more important moving parts, clogging vents, shorting circuits and lighting grease-fires. Paying such extortionate amounts to the people that recommend raising our fees is outright madness.
I’ve also heard that “administrative pay must remain competitive.“ This is bullshit. Hundreds of applicants line up for any UC opening. If applicants pass up a UC job for mere dollars and cents, they care more about money than education. Learning ain’t a business.
I recommend that officials get paid no more than $100,000, bonuses included. This is the criteria they themselves set for financial aid eligibility, so if that’s what a household needs to send a kid to a top-rate school without help, that’s all they deserve to earn.
So administrative premiums are going up when UC state funding is going down. Genius. This means that (1) more of our school’s expenditure is going to dubiously useful bureaucrats and (2) more of that money is coming from your pocket. “Students are continuing to pay more and get less,” said UCSF medicine professor Dr. Stan Glantz in an SF Chronicle interview.
Financial aid is augmented in the 2009-2010 budget plan, but I shouldn’t need to tell you that that just means debt.
It’s sick. From the UC’s own budget statement, 71 percent of revenue is spent on staff salaries and benefits while 20 percent is used for educational equipment and facilities. Administrative budgets are growing at three times the rate of instructional budgets.
You’re not alone. While the UC decision makers believe that the purpose of higher education is job security for millionaires, saner voices everywhere call for reform. Fee hike protests flare across the state from UCSD to SFSU. UC regents are being told they can’t hide from public opinion. Give them your voice as well.
“The high-fee, high-aid model is bad for students, bad for the UC and bad for the state,“ said UC Student Association head Lucero Chavez in an interview with the SF Chronicle. “This model is most harmful to middle-income students. It translates into more loan debt and a lot more work hours.“
Professor emeritus of physics at UC Berkeley Charles Schwartz has made it his personal mission to expose the financial fraud of the UC system at large. In mountains of papers, he accuses Yudof and crew of calculating false numbers to justify fee hikes and defend the supposed efficiency of administration. In an open letter to Yudof, Schwartz says management bureaucracy wastes over $600 million per year and devours profits from UC programs that could be shared.
Most astoundingly, Schwartz says that our undergraduate fees cover the entirety of our education and that cuts from the state budget impact only the faculty’s research program. This fee hike, then, is robbery.
Picture your education as a hoagie. As the sandwich comes your way, it passes through the hands of chancellors, vice chancellors, deans and assistants and every one of them takes a big messy bite out of it. Really, they’re giving it to this poor sandwich like it’s their job. You see the beautiful baguette shrink and shrink and shrink. Once it gets to you, you get crumbs.
And the bill.
CHEYA CARY is seeing Nine Inch Nails at Shoreline today. “You train us how to act/ You keep the fear intact/ The imminent attack/ Everything is right on track/ And we are LETTING you GET away … “