According to Steve Olson, the UCLA budget director, 12% of the UCLA budget in 2008-2009 came from the state, but over 50% of the core budget (instruction, research, and administration) was state funded. While the total UCLA budget was $4.7 billion, I calculate that only about $160 million, or just under 3.5%, was spent on undergraduate education. Furthermore, state funds and student fees brought over $1 billion to the campus, but only a small fraction of this amount was spent on instruction-related activities. If budgets are really a set of priorities, it becomes obvious why undergraduate education is often downsized.
Looking at the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences, the total budget was $234 million in 2008-2009, and 44% of the spending went to fund ladder faculty salaries, 3% to temporary faculty salaries, 9% to operating costs, 14% to benefits, 15% to staff, 9% to graduate assistants, and 6% to other academic titles. During the year, there were 22,000 undergraduates in the College, and I calculate that if we remove the costs associated with graduate education, (50% of the senate faculty courses were graduate courses), it cost the school $6,363 to educate each student for the year (this figure includes funds for salaries, benefits, staff, administration, utilities, and maintenance). While UC got $8,309 in student fees per student and $18,00 in state funds per student, the university still declared that they were losing money on each student, but my calculation shows that UCLA pocketed at least $20,000 on every undergraduate student. As I have pointed out before, the UC asserts that the state only gave $7,400 dollars for each student in 2008-2009, but this number is based on what they call “real dollars,” which includes some undeclared inflation adjustment.
It has been recently revealed that all student fees and state funds are collected by the Office of the President, and then redistributed to the campus according to some secret formula (for a spreadsheet on how much each campus is funded, see here). While the state supports each student at the same level, regardless if the student is a graduate or undergraduate or if the student is from Santa Barbara or Los Angeles, UCOP funds each student on a different basis. For example, in 2008-2009, each student at UCSC received $7,568 in state funding from UCOP, but students at UCLA got $18,745. Apparently, what is happening is that UCOP re-allocates funds students based on their type of education. In fact, each student at UCSF got funded by the state at a rate of $71,000. Here we se direct evidence that not only are undergraduate students subsidizing graduate students, but campuses without professional schools are subsidizing the campuses with professional programs.
In the case of UCLA, the wealthiest campus and the one with the lowest dependence on state funding, we have seen the most draconian cuts to undergraduate programs. There is thus little relation between the recent state budget cuts and the downsizing of undergraduate programs; instead, the more students pay and the more the state gives, the more UCLA increases compensation and funding to people who have little if any connection to academic instruction or research. In fact, the state budget cuts are used to reduce the number of undergraduate courses and to expand undergraduate class sizes.
In a recent provocative statement on the PBS News Hour, President Yudof revealed the inner-logic of the UC funding priorities: "Many of our, if I can put it this way, businesses are in good shape. We’re doing very well there. Our hospitals are full, our medical business, our medical research, the patient care?-so we have this core problem, who’s gonna pay the salary of the English Department? We have to have it. Who’s gonna pay it, and Sociology, and the humanities, and that’s where we’re running into trouble.” From Yudof’s business perspective, the medical centers and research sectors are doing great, but they are being brought down by the needy programs in the humanities and the social sciences. Yet, as I have shown, the opposite is the case; undergraduate programs in the humanities and the social sciences are generating huge profits that are then used to pay for the staff, administration, and faculty that have no relation to the core programs. In this system, the wealthy get wealthier and the poor get starved.