After months of meetings and public forums, five working groups revealed their proposals to The UC Commission on the Future -created last July to assess the future of the university in light of budget deficits.
Among the working groups’ recommendations were multi-year student fee increases, inquiries into expanding online course opportunities and increasing the number of non-resident students.
The systemwide Academic Senate, faculty and students will provide feedback on the recommendations. Their input will be subject to review by the full commission before it is sent to the UC Board of Regents for approval in July.
“Some recommendations you may like a lot. Some you may think are terrible,” said UC Regents Chairman Russell S. Gould in opening remarks. “But that’s OK. They are important ideas to put forward.”
The access and affordability work group, chaired by student regent Jesse M. Bernal and Michael V. Drake, Chancellor of UC Irvine, recommended a multi-year fee increase schedule to address state budget cuts. California has already cut $637 million in state funding for the UC system from 2009 to 2010.
The plan stipulates that fees for incoming undergraduate and transfer students would rise at a fixed rate or according to inflation for the duration of years the student is enrolled at the university. Bernal said the schedule could provide predictability to students and families who would plan ahead for the increases.
The funding strategies work group also proposed their own multi-year fee increase plan that did not lock in tuition levels. It recommended three increase schemes ranging from “low increases” of 5 percent annually to “aggressive increases” of 15 percent annually over five years.
With the 5 percent increase plan, resident undergraduate fees would be pushed to $13,148 in 2015-2016 and non-resident undergraduates would pay $36,027. The aggressive increases would mean $20,721 in tuition for residents and $43,600 for non-residents. It would generate between $445 million and $1.63 billion for the UC.
In seeking to decrease the students’ time to obtain a degree, the education and curriculum work group advocated the exploration of online instruction at the undergraduate and graduate level.
Keith Williams, a UC Davis associate professor of exercise biology and co-chair of the education and curriculum group, said the working group endorsed efforts coordinated by the Office of the President in creating 30 to 40 experimental classes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of online courses and to determine which elements might be applicable at the UC campuses.
“There’s still much to be learned about how effective online education could be at the level of a research university,” Williams said. “And this provides a way of getting some well structured input in to how it might be best done at UC.”
Both the funding strategies and size and shape work groups also developed plans to expand the enrollment of non-resident undergraduates.
Under the size and shape work group plan, UC campuses would set their own percentages of non-resident undergraduates. They would evaluate every five years whether the amount of students meets its financial and educational situation. Their report stated the surge in non-residents would not displace funded resident students.
The funding strategies work group’s recommendation presented two options that would double the current 7,600 of non-residents to 15,200 by 2015-2016, with variations in regards to replacing over-enrolled students. The work group expects to generate either $98 million or $174 million with the two plans.
While non-residents would pay systemwide fee increases, base non-resident tuition would remain stable. Total tuition would be $5,000 below those of Harvard, Stanford and similar universities.
Students and labor organizations also presented their opinions at the commission meeting. Representatives from Local 3299, a UC employees union, expressed concerns over the impact of UC budget cuts on its members. They urged the commission to support aggressive advocacy of increased state funding for public higher education.
“Even if you mobilize every other revenue generating idea in the book, a public UC will not survive without growing support from Californians,” said Julian Posadas, executive VP of Local 3299. “Returning state support and student fee levels to 2001 levels will cost the median taxpayer just 32 dollars annually per household.”
During the 15 minute public comment session, students and affirmative action and labor advocates also spoke to the commission. According to the Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, 80 protesters assembled outside the Fisher Banquet Room on the UCSF campus during the meeting.
“The crisis is not a financial crisis,” said Gabrielle Kirk, an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz. “The crisis is a fact that students have to drop out because they can’t afford school.”
She also expressed frustration at the possibility that the commission’s proposals would be implemented on a systemwide basis.
“Campuses are diverse,” Kirk said. “Something that works at UCLA is not going work at our campus. I don’t go to UCLA; I didn’t apply to go to UCLA, so don’t have me do policies that work for that campus.”
For the entire first set of recommendations by the commission’s working groups, visit:
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.