Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reading Yudof’s Playbook: An Inside Look at the Future of the UC

James Garland’s Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities is a great summation of everything that is currently wrong with American universities. While the intention of the book does not appear to be to provide a framework for how to destroy higher education, the text provides the playbook for any administrator who wants to justify the privatization of public universities. Garland’s main argument is that public institutions should wean themselves off of their dependence on state funds by raising tuition to whatever level the market will handle. In fact, when he was president of Miami University in Ohio, this is exactly what Garland did. In one year, he more than doubled tuition from $8,300 to $18,000 (xvii). Garland claims that the result of this experiment was that enrollments for first-generation students went up 40% and enrollments for minority students increased 25%. By using a high tuition, high aid model, this administrator argues universities can bring in more money and still attract underrepresented students.

Not only does Garland’s claims fly in the face of national statistics, but his own use of numbers is highly suspect. First of all, if the whole goal of raising tuition is to bring in more money so the university does not have to rely on unpredictable state funding, someone must be paying a lot more money. Moreover, if all of the students from Ohio are receiving some form of financial aid, it must be that out-of-state students are paying much more, so in-state students can pay less. Overall, this model reduces the number of in-state students and forces a reliance on wealthy out-of-state enrollments.

Of course, this is the model we have already seen with the University of Michigan and University of Viriginia, and it appears to be the model that the University of California is currently pursuing. As Peter Sacks has documented in his book, Tearing Down the Gates, in 1992, a third of University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) students were from lower-income families, but by 2002, only 13% were eligible for Pell grants. This precipitous loss of lower-income students also occurred at the flagship public universities of Virginia, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Between 1992 and 2002, the percentage of students receiving Pell grants at the University of Wisconsin at Madison went down 28%, while University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign went down 15%. Furthermore, after reducing its reliance on state funding by rapidly increasing its tuition, the University of Virginia saw its percentage of students eligible for Pell grants drop to just 8%.

Garland does not concentrate on this question of equity, and instead, he insists that the only way to keep universities solvent is to allow for the free market to balance supply and demand, and therefore universities should not rely on state subsidies to balance their books, and they also should not allow states to regulate their tuition. Here we see the neoliberal playbook in its purest form: the government should be eliminated so the free market can function in its pure state.

Garland attaches this need to break the relation between the public university and the state to global trends that no one can prevent. According to this common fatalistic logic, states will continue to reduce their funding for universities because they have lost their tax base due to the movement of jobs overseas (xi). Furthermore, since most of the costs for universities are fixed (tenure, healthcare, and building maintenance), the only thing a university can do is to either constantly raise tuition or lower the educational quality by replacing tenure-track faculty with part-timers and expanding class sizes, while neglecting the need for repairs and upkeep.

Of course, most universities have selected both strategies because for the last thirty years, we have seen a constant increase in tuition combined with a downsizing of the faculty. In fact, one of the giant holes in Garland’s book is he does not see how universities have simply shifted their funding structures by making undergraduate students pay for the constant increase in administration and research budgets. In other words, as the quality of undergraduate education has been downsized, the cost has gone up because the price of tuition is unrelated to the quality of education.

While Garland’s book is full of holes and contradictions, it is worthy of a read for one reason: it appears to be the training manual for university presidents like Mark Yudof. Virtually every claim and strategy discussed in this work has been recycled and re-presented by the UC president.


  1. How about this article in the Austin American-Statesman that a historic cafe is being closed for "raises".

  2. Current Threats to University of California Don’t Come From the Outside - $3 Million Extravagant Spending by UC President Yudof for University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau to Hire Consultants - When Work Can Be Done Internally & Impartially
    During the days of the Great Recession, every dollar in higher education counts. Contact Chairwoman Budget Sub-committee on Education Finance Assemblywoman Carter 916.319.2062 - tell her to stop the $3,000,000 spending by Birgeneau on consultants.
    Do the work internally at no additional costs with UCB Academic Senate Leadership (C. Kutz/F. Doyle), the world – class professional UCB faculty/ staff, & the UCB Chancellor’s bloated staff (G. Breslauer, N. Brostrom, F. Yeary, P. Hoffman, C. Holmes etc) & President Yudof.
    President Yudof’s UCB Chancellor should do the high paid work he is paid for instead of hiring expensive East Coast consults to do the work of his job. ‘World class’ smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the hard work analysis, and make the tough-minded difficult, decisions to identify inefficiencies.
    Where do the $3,000,000 consultants get their recommendations?
    From interviewing the UCB senior management that hired them and approves their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled the public, state, federal agencies?
    $3 million impartial consultants never bite the hands (Chancellor Birgeneau/ Chancellor Yeary) that feed them!
    Mr. Birgeneau's accountabilities include "inspiring innovation, leading change." Instead of deploying his leadership and setting a good example by doing the work of his Chancellor’s job, Birgeneau outsourced his work to the $3,000,000 consultants. Doesn't he engage UC and UC Berkeley people at all levels to examine inefficiencies and recommend $150 million of trims? Hasn't he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina - which also hired the consultants -- about best practices and recommendations that eliminate inefficiencies?
    No wonder the faculty, staff, students, Senate & Assembly are angry and suspicious.
    In today’s Great Recession three million dollars is a irresponsible price to pay when a knowledgeable ‘world-class’ UCB Chancellor and his bloated staff do not do the work of their jobs.
    Pick up the phone and call: save $3 million for students!

  3. Yudof needs to address the immediate problem of UCB Chancellor Birgeneau Loss of Credibility, Trust
    The UCB budget gap has grown to $150 million, and still the Chancellor is spending money that isn't there on expensive outside consultants. His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the "innovative thinking, expertise, and new knowledge" the consultants would bring.

    Does this mean that the faculty and management of a world-class research and teaching institution lack the knowledge, impartiality, innovation, and professionalism to come up with solutions? Have they been fudging their research for years? The consultants will glean their recommendations from interviewing faculty and the UCB management that hired them; yet solutions could be found internally if the Chancellor were doing the job HE was hired to do. Consultant fees would be far better spent on meeting the needs of students.

    There can be only one conclusion as to why creative solutions have not been forthcoming from the professionals within UCB: Chancellor Birgeneau has lost credibility and the trust of the faculty as well as of the Academic Senate leadership that represents them. Even if the faculty agrees with the consultants' recommendations - disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy - the underlying problem of lost credibility and trust will remain.

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