This summer I had the opportunity to speak to several top UC officials, and here are the main myths I heard repeated that relate to previous entries from this blog:
1) We should fund Berkeley and UCLA at a higher rate because these star campuses have put the other campuses on the map.
Here we find a type of trickle-down prestige: since the star campuses have high ratings, they help the reputation of the system as a whole. Thus, even if their reputations have been built up over decades of unequal founding, we should all be grateful for what they have been able to accomplish. One of the things wrong with this notion is that it neglects the fact that the campuses with the highest number of unrepresented minority students receive the lowest per student funding. Furthermore, the students who may need the most instructional help receive the lowest support.
2) The process of rebenching has solved the imbalance of funding among the campuses.
As I have shown in several previous posts, the new method of redistributing state funds has occurred during a period when campus funding has become even more unequal due to the rise in the number of high-paying non-resident students on particular campuses.
3) The high tuition/high aid model works because students coming from low- and moderate-income families pay no tuition after financial aid.
The problem with this common idea is that it fails to see how two-thirds of the cost ofattending a UC comes from non-tuition expenses (housing, dining, parking, health, books, and fees).
4) The deal with the governor to freeze tuition and increase the number of students from California makes sense.
When I asked people at UCOP how they planned for this increase in enrollments, they told me they made sure there were enough beds, counselors, and medical services: they did not mention classrooms or teachers.
5) The UC knows how much it costs to educate each student.
After years of trying to get the university to come up with a more precise method for calculating the cost of instruction, we finally received a highly flawed newmethodology. Although the new rebenching model tried to differentiate among the cost of education for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, it turns out that the numbers were based on a “historical approximation.” As I have argued many times, if we do not know how much it costs to educate students, how can we ask the state for more money?
6) The UC does not rely on the state anymore for funding, so the state should not tell the university what to do.
The first problem with this myth is that the state does support about half of the costs for theinstructional budget, and there has been a large increase in state financialaid. Virtually all of the money cut from the state budget for the UC general fund was replaced by an increase in financial aid (Cal Grants and the Middle-Class Scholarship). UC says it does not get the aid money to run its operations, but the increased aid allowed for the increase in tuition after the Great Recession. When the UC neglects to point to this source of funding, it upsets the legislature, and makes them not trust the UC.
7) All of the UC’s funding problems stem from the state budget cuts.
Although it is clear that the state has not supported the UC in an effective manner, it is also true that many of the problems stem from the way the campuses spend funds and the way UCOP distributes funds among the campuses. Furthermore, UCOP still claims that there is no problem with excessive administration because all of the growth has happened in the medical centers. The reality is that administrative bloat continues on the campus level and at UCOP.