Forbes has ranked UC Davis and four other UCs among the top ten universities with the highest “college tuition risk,” or those that may offer less bang for your buck.
The study warns high school seniors and parents that high state debt may result in public universities to dig deeper into families’ pocketbooks while reducing services.
“At some schools more than others, tuition could rise dramatically in coming years,” the Forbes ranking states. “Services like tutoring programs, free meals and low-cost entertainment events could fall by the wayside as administrators look to save money.”
In forming their list, Forbes studied the economic condition of 170 public colleges and universities and used three factors based on their methodology: deficit pressure, the bargain element and fiscal slide.
Forbes determined deficit pressure by using state appropriations numbers from 2007-08 to create a per-student dollar figure, which was multiplied by the state’s July 2009 budget deficit. Forbes, however, did not list their deficit pressure number.
The ranking defined the bargain element with lower in-state student tuition equating to higher risk for fiscal cuts. And fiscal slide utilized various economic factors, such as state debt and tax revenue shifts, to evaluate state health for the institutions.
UC Davis’s in-state tuition for 2009 to 2010 stood at $9,358 and Forbes calculated California’s budget deficit to be 49 percent.
“Despite the recent approval of a 32 percent tuition increase that will force many UC in-state students to pay roughly $10,000 in tuition and fees for the next school year,” the Forbes ranking stated, “we predict still more pain for a system that’s supported by a state with a 49 percent budget gap and has a ways to go before it charges its in-state students as much as, say, the University of Vermont ($13,554).”
Response from the university has been mixed. While officials have agreed that falling state revenues have led to budget reductions and fee increases, they have not seen the situation as entirely gloomy.
“The factors employed by Forbes to generate this ranking list capture well the perfect storm that has enveloped the University of California system,” wrote Peter King, Director of Media Relations for the University Office of the President.
However King also said that a third of fee increases were spent on financial aid.
UC Davis’ response echoed the theme that the availability of financial aid mitigates the impact of fee hikes and cuts on students.
“UC’s Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan ensures in 2009-10 that all needy students with household incomes below $60,000 receive gift aid covering systemwide fees up to their need level,” wrote Claudia Morain, UC Davis News Service Director in an e-mail interview.
Morain also stated that the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan will increase its limit to $70,000 in 2010-11.
Officials close to budget planning also questioned Forbes’ methodology in compiling the ranking.
According to Robert Agee, director of academic budgets and institutional analysis, Forbes did not differentiate between undergraduates and graduate and professional students in their student totals.
Agee added that the state appropriation total of $470 million for UC Davis included the medical school, which he said may be not applicable for prospective undergraduates.
“It makes for provocative reading but I’m not sure what it does for undergraduates,” Agee said.
Agee, who compiles financial budget totals for campus units, said his office is preserving services with an eye toward declining state support. He placed the focus on budgetary process in Sacramento with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget and the May Revision.
Although the governor’s budget has only allocated $371 million of the $913 million UC has requested, Agee sees the Legislature’s revision of the budget as a better indicator of the system’s financial straits.
“We’re waiting for May revision to see whether the hole would get shallower or deeper,” Agee said. “How that will be affected by what happens in Sacramento is hard to tell.”
LESLIE TSAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.