What Are the UC Regents Doing with Students’ Tuition Money?

Unpublished OpEd piece  February 2012

by Charles Schwartz, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley  Schwartz@physics.berkeley.edu


We know that state support for the University of California (UC) has been decreasing for a number of years. We know that the governing body of the University, The Board of Regents, has been raising student fees (now called tuition) at a rapid rate; and it is even acknowledged that the student fee revenues now exceed the state appropriations at UC.


I want to ask a simple question: How do they use that tuition money?


One of the familiar stories throughout this period of financial difficulties is that classes have been cut, enrollments have been limited, libraries have been closed, nonresident students have been recruited to replace California citizens (because they pay a whopping larger tuition); and when asked about that set of sad developments, UC officials invariably blame it on the state’s reduction in funding. They say that they do not have the money to provide enough Teaching Assistants (Graduate Student Instructors) to handle all the classes, or they do not have enough money to hire all the Lecturers and Librarians needed to meet the educational needs of their undergraduate students.


Let’s look at some numbers. For the year 2010-2011, the total amount taken in by UC from student tuition (previously called the Educational Fee) was $1.816 Billion. This is the gross revenue; and after subtracting a portion used for financial aid, that leaves UC with about  $1.211 Billion in net tuition revenue, which one would expect to be spent on paying for the education of those students. By far most of that tuition comes from undergraduate students and that is my focus here.


One can look up the total amount of money that UC spends in a typical year for all Teaching Assistants: it is about $165 Million. One can look up the total number of Lecturers and Librarians throughout all of UC and estimate the total annual cost of all those employments: the numbers are about $120 Million and $30 Million, respectively.  Add up all those costs and you get something like $315 Million per year. That is only about one-fourth of the total net tuition revenue that UC takes in. So, Why are there cutbacks in classes and library hours, etc.?


What is going on here? What are they doing with the students’ tuition payments?


Maybe there are some other purposes that could legitimately claim some payment from tuition; but I would expect that the top priority for spending undergraduates’ tuition was to provide for undergraduates’ education.


Do The Regents have any policy on this question of priorities?  Do they leave it entirely up to their hired executives to decide how to spend that money? Do they have any idea of what is being done in their name? They, the Regents, are supposed to represent the interests of all the citizens of California; but this situation is rather disturbing.