Tuesday, January 15, 2013

UC-AFT Public Comment for Regents Meeting (1/16/13)

1. We appreciate the increased funding from the state, but this does not make up for years of reductions; moreover, we are concerned about the push for online education.

2. While many of our faculty members already use digital technologies in different ways, we have not found that the use of high-quality online courses reduces costs; in fact, due to the need for staffing, new equipment, and software, they may drive up costs.

3. Already the UC Online Pilot Program has failed to meet most of its projections. Millions have been spent on marketing and course development, but only a few non-UC students have enrolled.

4. In fact, we have already driven down the costs of undergraduate instruction in the UC system through the use of large classes and non-tenured faculty; moving these classes online will not save money. The stress on online education is a distraction from the real cost drivers: administration, professional education, medical centers, athletics, sponsored research, and amenities.

5. If a professor teaches 4 courses and makes $100,000 a year, the per student direct instructional cost for a class of 250 students is $100; in the case of a non-tenured faculty member, the cost on average is $40; online education will not lower these costs. Even if you eliminate all of the teachers, you still need to pay someone to design the courses, interact with the students, administer the program, and grade the papers. Online education is a recipe for administrative bloat.

6. Students have a hard time graduating on time because they are sometimes unprepared for university-level work, they are weeded out of high-demand majors, they need to work at jobs to pay for the total cost of education, they are alienated in large lecture classes, and courses are graded on a distributed curve (some students have to fail in this system): online education will not help solve these issues.

7. We need a transparent accounting of the real cost drivers in the UC system.


  1. Bob,
    I am sympathetic with much of what you write but I am not convinced that sponsored research costs UC. I suspect the contrary. The more than 50% overhead on all salary line items brings in major revenue. That is why UC wants to reduce undergraduate education and focus on research.

    I do suspect that UC administrators and faculty make out like bandits with technology transfers. Lots of private money is made from research paid for by tax payers. UC could recoup lots more money here. I am not sure if you have read Jennifer Washburn's excellent book University, Inc.

  2. The Commission on the Future found that other similar institutions collect on average 60% for overhead on their grants, but the UC averages closer to 26%, so the UC system is losing about $300 million a year. In fact, no one knows if research grants on the whole lose or gain money because no one knows the true cost of overhead. The UC may pursue grants because they think it turns a profit or because it brings prestige or it helps society.

  3. Hi,
    I have pondered the problem you say. But in fact, no one knows if research grants on the whole lose or gain money because no one knows the true cost of overhead

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Also it would be good to talk about the http://besteditingservices.org/ just salivate over that number but don't drill down on it. Where are those applications coming from? how many of them are qualified? etc.

  6. It really is a problem that wouldn't be solved if the true cost of overhead isn't known. Research grants shouldn't be taken for granted because it's a big part of the funding of the school and the school would mostly benefit from the experiment results and college papers produced. Hopefully, everything would be solved.

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