I write in response to Jordan Carroll’s column last Thursday alleging a connection between Occupy Wall Street and the University of California. His argument was built on some pillars that simply are not factual and he ignored or understated some inconvenient truths to make his case. Let me offer just two examples.
First and foremost, it is the state’s well-documented disinvestment in higher education – cut roughly in half, in constant dollars, in the past two decades – that has driven up tuition levels. But the budget is not being balanced exclusively on the backs of students. Faced with a $1 billion budget shortfall this year alone, and the possibility of an additional $100 million in state cuts in January, the university has made severe cutbacks, laid off or furloughed employees, increased administrative efficiencies with a target of a half billion in savings in five years and stepped up efforts to generate outside revenue.
Yes, tuition increases have been part of this mix. Contrary to what Mr. Carroll wrote, however, UC regents will not meet soon to discuss more such increases, and certainly not one of 81 percent. Discussion of a multi-year budget outline during the last Regents meeting was aimed at developing a framework to link state funding with tuition levels and thus allow the university and students to plan ahead over years, not months.
No vote was taken on tuition increases, nor is one scheduled to be taken at the next meeting.
Second, Mr. Carroll was incorrect in his assertion that imbalanced UC personnel policies are to blame for the system’s woes. The proportion of non-academic staff has not changed at UC in more than a decade. Moreover, close to 60 percent of the non-academic personnel growth across the UC system is from UC medical centers. Teaching hospitals, research initiatives and auxiliary enterprises (supported almost entirely from non-state funds) account for roughly 70 percent of the non-academic growth since 1998.
Should Mr. Carroll wish to write again about such issues, I encourage him to give us a call. One key to maintaining the excellence of the world’s best public university system is educating the public about the facts.
Media Relations, University of California Office of the President