Student Fees: Approaching the Limit
What is the actual expenditure by the University for
program of undergraduate education; and how much of this cost is
currently covered by the fees which those students are required to pay?
The calculation is reported below; and the answer is that undergraduate
students at UC are now paying for 95% of the actual cost of the
educational services provided to them.
The closest comparison figure given by UC officials is found in this quotation from The Regents’ Budget [“University of California 2005-06 Budget for Current Operations,” November 2004; page 50]: “While in 1985-86 students contributed 11% toward their education, they currently pay 30% of the cost of their education.”
The basic explanation for the discrepancy between these two numerical claims (95% vs. 30%) is simple: UC bundles together the cost of all the core activities conducted by the faculty - undergraduate teaching and graduate teaching and research - while I have singled out one unique component. This distinction has profound implications for a public university, which I will begin to explore.
Can One Disaggregate the Cost of Undergraduate
I start with two assertions:
A) Graduate Education (the PhD programs above all else) is inextricably tied to faculty research;
B) Undergraduate Education can be separated, both pedagogically and financially.
Assertion A is, I believe, universally held throughout research universities in this country; so I will not bother to explain or argue for it. Assertion B, however, will provoke plenty of debate. Here is a sample of quotes, copied from a recent spate of Letters to the Editor [Los Angeles Times 11/13/04; responding to an 11/6/04 editorial on the relative values of teaching and research in our universities.]
Teaching, both a craft and an art, should be no less considered — or exalted — than research when considering university tenure.
More of the populace comes into contact with society's teachers than with its researchers; hence, the need for teachers of the highest caliber who in our democratic society will work toward society's enlightenment, more than its indoctrination.
Teaching and research complement each other. We all remember teachers who've ignited our potential, dreams, knowledge. Thanks for your support.
Your editorial makes the fundamental error of separating research and activities associated with it (critical thinking) from teaching. Research and teaching are to each other as bees and honey. Often the connection may not be immediately apparent.
For example, the most distinguished research professor at a university that I attended was a poor lecturer; moreover, his participation in conferences was of very limited value because he mumbled inaudibly.
However, his brilliant research attracted most remarkable and talented students whose teaching was outstanding. Thus, brilliant research fathers outstanding teaching.
This editorial misses the boat on two counts. First, you can't have good teaching without good research.
An instructor who only knows the manipulations of calculus and hasn't learned what it is for, or what it means through active research, can only teach to a stilted standard imposed by a bureaucracy.
College courses need to evolve with changes in a given field, which can be done only by faculty who are engaged in that field. The better the faculty research, the more relevant and better taught the undergraduate courses.
Second, an education isn't a widget made in China, and you can't price it accordingly. Growth in faculty salaries has lagged that of other professions for many years, which is the relevant measure of inflation.
Smart students aren't dumb, and they know where to go for the best education.
I don’t expect to resolve this enduring debate, which is really about finding the right balance between two worthy types of activity that compete for each professor’s valuable time. But I do have some relevant statistical data to bring forward.
First, consider the pedagogical issue.
About half of all undergraduate courses now offered throughout UC are
taught by Lecturers rather than by Professors. These two titles both
describe “faculty” at the university; but the one is hired solely for
the purpose of teaching (mostly without any tenure) while the other is
hired to conduct research and also do teaching (tenured or on the
tenure track). The Lecturers are selected by departmental chairmen to
be fully qualified to teach at the same level of competence as the
other faculty members; but they are not hired to (nor required to) be
engaged in research. This “proves”, for me at least, that there is no
pedagogical necessity, at the undergraduate teaching level, for faculty
to be engaged in research work. (For graduate instruction, it is a very
different story because the PhD students are in fact apprentices on the
way to becoming researchers in their own right.) This same point can be
made by reference to the many excellent Liberal Arts colleges, where
faculty are hired only to teach, not to do research. Of course,
teachers at every level - primary school, secondary school and college
level - are expected to keep up with new developments in the field of
their competence; and this does not require that every teacher be
engaged in “research” as are the faculty at a research university.
The second bit of statistical data I rely upon comes from a faculty work-time study conducted by UC some twenty years ago. This says that UC faculty, on the average, spend about half of their work time on research, with the other half split about equally between undergraduate teaching and graduate teaching. This allows me to make a most reasonable quantitative cost separation of the I&R budget to get out the portion attributable to undergraduate education. (See the Appendix for details.)
What Does UC Say About My Method of Calculation?
This methodology for a separate calculation
the cost of undergraduate education at UC was first presented in an
earlier paper of mine: ”Looking into the UC Budget - Report #8”, issued
in 1993. That produced a letter of response from UC’s Director of the
Budget, V.P. Larry Hershman, which is reproduced, and commented upon,
in the subsequent Report #8a. [See http://ocf.berkeley.edu/~schwrtz/Rpts/R8a.html
.] Without repeating that exchange here, I will just say that Hershman
had no direct criticism of my calculation; he only wanted to avoid it:
“We spent over a year developing the methodology which established the cost of instruction ... As we have clearly stated, the figure represents an estimate of the average cost of education for undergraduates and graduates combined across all disciplines. ... We have made no claim regarding the separate cost of either undergraduate or graduate education.”I updated that study in 2000 (see Part 4 of this series) but that time got no response from any UC official. Earlier this year, I wrote a brief summary of this same issue (reporting that undergraduate students at UC were now paying 83% of the cost of their education) and circulated this to all regents in advance of a special meeting/retreat they had on Long Range Planning. That also got no response; but it did end up being published as an OpEd piece in the Sacramento Bee [November 1, 2004].
Should One Disaggregate the Cost of
Now we come to the interesting part. Why
UC officials unwilling to discuss this issue? I believe they find it
greatly threatening, and I want to explore why that is.
One reason is that there is a long standing awkwardness (a dishonesty, some would say) in how public research universities, not UC alone, have related to their constituencies - represented by the state legislators. The fact is that we, the faculty, have always been hired, been promoted, been esteemed, primarily on the basis of our research activities and accomplishments. Of course, we are also here to teach undergraduate students; that is part of the bargain we have made with our public funding base. But as seen from the other side - the public and their elected legislators - undergraduate education has always been the primary motivation for supporting the university. Yes, they know about research, and they can appreciate its value, both economic and cultural, but seeing their own sons and daughters enrolled in a high-class university was their primary motivation for generous financial support.
Is there a mis-match of understandings, or of priorities, here? Of course there is. And wise university officials have never wanted to clarify this foggy situation. They have mostly believed that the public, and their legislators, are not competent enough to fully appreciate the importance of faculty research. If all they can appreciate is a classy undergraduate education, that is ok. So they let the little lie lay.
I am willing to say that as long as the state was fully funding the whole basic budget of the university - research and teaching - then it was perhaps excusable not to clarify the real priorities that exist within academe. After all, both missions are for the public good; and exactly how the money was divided between these two missions was perhaps not terribly important.
A decade ago, however, something changed. The state had a budget crisis and one response was a dramatic rise in student fees charged for what had previously been a “free” public education. A new political rationale was constructed along with this shifting of financial burden. The creation of a broadly educated class of citizens was no longer to be seen as primaily a “public good”, but as an operation which was for the “private good” of those students who had the talent and the initiative to get into, and graduate from, this great public university. The university (and not only UC, but many of its colleague institutions across the country), not only accepted this change of public philosophy but accentuated it by advertising the benefits (higher lifetime income levels) for those who would be its students. Thus, students “ought” to pay for their education.
So where does this leave the leaders of public higher education today? State budget difficulties lead to cuts for their universities; in response, universities take the easiest route and increase student fees to make up for the lost revenue. Where does this process lead? Is there any logical or philosophical limit to this progression?
Two Chancellors Speak Out - The Issue is
From the Los Angeles Times, October
UCLA would have to significantly raise, perhaps more than double, the cost of its undergraduate program to remain a first-rate university, Chancellor Albert Carnesale said Thursday. Although the chancellor said such a fee hike is years away from gaining support, his call for an increase, from the current $6,600, underscored how far the UC system has departed from one of its founding tenets as a tuition-free university.
In the face of dwindling state funding, Carnesale said UCLA "will not be able to match the elite private universities" in quality under its current fee structure for California residents. He said budget cuts have made it increasingly difficult for UCLA to recruit and keep top faculty and graduate students.
In his debut appearance before the Berkeley Division of the UC Academic Senate, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau offered a cautiously optimistic prognosis on future state funding for UC and an emphatic endorsement of the public nature of the university.
“I’m a deep believer in the public-service aspect that our university offers,” Birgeneau told the Senate’s fall 2004 meeting on Oct. 21. He has already heard, he said, from a number of people, including donors, who believe that the only strategy for the future “is one that takes us in the direction of privatizing the university. I want to state unambiguously and unequivocally that if Berkeley wants a chancellor who will lead in the privatization direction, it should find someone else and I’ll go back to the lab,” he said to much applause. “I came here explicitly because of the public nature of Berkeley and the leadership role it has played as a public institution.”
Appendix - Details of the Calculation
The input data comes from the annual
accounting report published by the
UC Office of the President: “The University of California Campus
Financial Schedules 2003-2004” (CFS). The following table is data from
the Consolidated Schedule 12-F: Totals of Current Funds Expenditures by
Uniform Classification Category. ($ in Thousands)
|Operation and Maintenance of Plant||401,493|
|Student Financial Aid||784,742|