Saturday, October 1, 2016

Top UC Myths

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.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

UC Increases California Enrollments but Inequities Continue

UC-AFT has been on the forefront of pushing for the UC system to enroll more students from California, and recent data shows that 2016-2017 will see an increase of 8,000 students in this category.  The bad news is that the unequal funding of the campuses continues due to the distribution of non-resident students.  The following list shows the percentage of Freshmen enrollments that are non-resident students at each campus:

Berkeley   25.2% (down 3.7% from last year)

Davis         21.1% (down 4.8%)

Irvine        27.2% (down .2%)

UCLA         26.6% (down 2.7%)

Merced         .7%   (down .3%)

Riverside    3.8% (down .2%)

San Diego  28.6% (down 4.8%)

UCSB         16.1% (up 1%)

UCSC         12.7% (down 3.8%)

UC              20% (down 2.7%)

These trends highlight a partial movement in the direction requested by the legislature:  the campuses with the highest number of non-resident students have decreased their over-all percentage.  Yet, only UCSB increased its percentage of non-resident students and only by 1%.  UCOP has said that they wanted a more even distribution, but we still have three campuses with over 25% (Irvine, UCLA, Berkeley) and four campuses under 16.2% (Riverside, UCSC, UCSB, Merced).  These statistics are important because the tuition for non-resident students is $26,682 more than resident students.  So if Berkeley has 1,603 non-resident students, and Riverside has 213, Berkeley brings in $37 million more than Riverside. Since according to UCOP, the main reason for bringing in high-paying non-resident students is that they subsidize the resident students, it is still hard to see how this is working when campuses do not share extra revenue amongst themselves.  In other words, Berkeley does not transfer any of its $42 million in additional revenue from non-resident tuition to the other campuses.

It is important to stress that these statistics only look at one year of non-resident Freshmen enrollments, and if we look at all of the undergrads at a particular campus, we can multiply by four to get a rough estimate of the total inequity among campuses. So if the average student stays four years and the enrollment trends stay the same, Berkeley’s extra funding over Riverside becomes $148 million a year.

It is important to stress that the UC campuses have also increased their number of transfer students, and in this case, for Fall 2016, 15% are non-resident students (this has stayed about the same as last year).  We also see inequities generated here since only 4.8% of transfer students to Santa Cruz pay non-resident tuition, but 23.8% of the UC San Diego students pay the additional $26,682.

This year we will be working on trying to get the campuses to find a more equitable way of sharing non-resident revenue.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

After the Party: How to Understand the Election of 2016

It is always risky to predict how the future will see our present, but this year’s election could be seen as a major turning point for American politics.  As Donald Trump exposes the dark side of both the Republican Party and the billionaire class, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has disemboweled the Democratic Party and the establishment media. In order for the Democrats to make sure that a real Left alternative was an impossibility, the party had to do whatever was necessary to stop Sanders from gaining the nomination, but the result of this corrupted process is a lost faith in establishment politics and media.  

The Dems know that their greatest strength is the absolute backwardness of the Republic Party: no matter who the Democrats nominate, they know the other side will pick someone worse.  Of course, there is always a possibility of a third party candidate, but the system is so rigged against this alternative that there is no choice.  Also, voters have been sold on the idea that any third party candidate is a spoiler who will throw the election to the Republicans.

On one level, all of this does not matter because the Republicans have successfully redrawn voting districts in almost every state.  Even if Clinton wins and many more Democrats vote, the Republicans will still control the House of Representatives due to gerrymandering after the 2010 census.   The one possible reason to vote for Hillary is the Supreme Court, and for union member and people who care about labor, this is a huge thing.  However, people should not fool themselves to think that Clinton will be able to get anything past a Republican Congress that will obstruct her at every turn, even if the Dems win back the Senate. 

One thing this current system shows is that the Republicans have out-worked and out-organized the Democrats.  In order to win the right to redraw voting districts after the 2010 census, they had to win the state houses in key states.  Once they won, the put all of the Democrats in a small number of districts as they made sure the Republicans had control of the majority of the newly drawn districts.  This is why the Dems can win many more votes but still lose most of the races. 

Of course Trump is a huge problem for the Republicans because after they pushed for unlimited money in elections, they are now tasting the bad effects of their own medicine.  Trump shows that someone with no experience but a lot of money and fame can run around the party establishment, and the more the party tries to counter him, the stronger Trump’s claim of a rigged system becomes true.  Trump also shows the logical conclusion of a party that has tried to market itself as an outsider group who stands against the government.  Since the Republican Party fed the Tea Party’s call to throw out the establishment, we are now seeing the Republican establishment implode. 

It is clear we need a real Left alternative, but we cannot do it through a fake revolution; we need to follow the Republicans and organize with a strategy to take back the state houses and redraw the voting maps, but this can only be performed by a party that wants things to change and is committed to the long game. Unfortunately the Democratic Party appears to be dedicated to holding onto the status quo as they rely on the Republicans to always promote someone more evil.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why You should still Vote for Sanders

After Hillary Clinton’s recent victories, many pundits and political officials have argued that Senator Sanders should drop put of the race, but there are many reasons for him to continue to fight for more delegates.

The first reason he should stay in is that he still has a chance at winning the pledged delegates.  Currently, Hillary has 1,650 and Bernie has1,348, and both need 2,383 to win.  This means that Hillary leads by 302, and she still has to gain 733 to win the nomination before the convention. With 1,206 delegates still undecided, if the Sanders and Clinton split the remaining delegates, Hillary would fall short by 130 delegates, and the nomination would have to be dcided at the convention.  It is important to note that the superdelegates do not vote before the convention, and in 2008, many switched their votes from Hillary to President Obama.  

The main reason why many superdelegates might change their votes is that Sanders is a stronger candidatein the national election. Sanders strength is in part due to his popularity among independents; however, the fact that many states do not allow independents to vote in the primaries makes Hillary look stronger than she really is.   Moreover, Hillary has such a high unfavorable rating that she could actually lose to someone like Trump or Cruz. 

Even if Sanders loses the nomination, but he brings a large number of delegates to the convention, he can help shape the party platform and influence who Hillary chooses for Vice President.  If people want someone like Elizabeth Warren to be VP, they should keep on voting for Bernie. 

As Sanders has said throughout the campaign, he is trying to create a political revolution, and so it is important for people to keep on supporting him to show that establishment politics have to be transformed.  The fact that he has been able to raise most of his funds from small individual contributions shows that a different campaign finance system is possible.  In short, a vote for Sanders is a vote for a different political system, and while Hillary attacks the system, she continues to use it to her advantage. 

Unfortunately, many people are simply following the mainstream media narrative that tells them they are fools to vote for someone who is clearly going to lose.  Would the same pundits tell a basketball team that was down two games in a series to simply give up?  Why should Sanders drop out if he still has a chance of winning or at least influencing the party platform? Instead of sheepishly following the media narrative, people should vote their conscience.  

Friday, April 15, 2016

The University of Public Relations

The news that UC Davis spentat least $175,000 on public relations to clean up their reputation after pepper spraying defenseless students should not surprise anyone at this point. Universities are highly invested in their public reputation, and they will often go to great lengths to hide negative facts.  For example, in response to the state auditor’s criticism of UC’s recent admissions policies, the university spent money and time not only attacking the audit but also spinning out their owncounter-narrative. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have bought UC’s official story that state funding cuts are the only problem, and UC acted in an ethical and effective manner.  However, the reality is that the new funding and admissions model the UCproduced in response to the state budget harms students, the state, andemployees

The big takeaway according to the media was that UC replaced eligible students from California with high-paying non-resident students, but this is no longer a problem since the university has agreed to increase the number of students from California in the future.  Yet, a larger problem has not been dealt with, and this concerns how to pay for all of the new students and how funds are distributed among the campuses.  As the audit rightly pointed out, the UC has continued to fail to produce a credible way of calculating how much it costs to teach different levels of students, and this failure to comply with state legislation makes it difficult to know how the university spends state funds, tuition dollars, and other sources of income.  On a fundamental level, no one knows how much anything costs in the UC system, and the main reason why has to do with public relations.

Since the university does not believe that the state or parents want to pay for research and other non-instructional activities, the system creates fake and misleading budgets to block transparency and allow for a high level of discretionary funding.  In fact, the recent budget crisis at Berkeley is a product of the university’s refusal to produce credible budgets: no one seems to know why Berkeley has such a large budget deficit, and so the PRmachine is simply blaming the state. After all, since Berkeley has increased its funding by bringing in so many high-paying out-of-state students, we have to ask, where has all of the money gone?

This emphasis on public relations over truth and transparency can also help to explain why the current president made such a bad deal with the governor and the state.  Not only did she agree to undermine the pension plan, but she has agreed to admit many more students with a much lower level of state funding per student.  Did she accept such a bad deal because she had entered into a public fight with the governor and her only way to save face was to pretend that the austerity budget was good for the university?

The question remains of how the campuses with lower funding and fewer non-resident students will afford to educate so many more students.  Of course, no one wants to deal with this problem because they are so busy trying to put a positive spin on everything.  It would be great to know how much the UC spends each year on public relations, but of course, we can’t figure this out since we do not know how much anything costs.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The State Audit of the UC: The Problem with Non-Resident Admissions

For the past several years, this blog has covered several issues that are the subject of a new state audit of the UC system. Our main concerns have been the unequal funding of the campuses, the crowding out of students from California through nonresident admissions, the lack of UC budget transparency, the failure of the university to estimate the cost of instruction, the limitations of the rebenching process, the increase in spending on administration, and the underfunding of campuses with a high percentage of under-represented students. The new audit backs up all of our past arguments and proposes that the state should increase its funding to the university in order to reduce the system’s reliance on non-resident students.       

The audit begins by arguing that due to state funding cuts and internal decisions, the UC has not been serving the people of California to the best of its ability: “This report concludes that over the past several years, the university has undermined its commitment to resident students. Specifically, in response to reduced state funding, the university made substantial efforts to enroll nonresident students who pay significantly more tuition than residents. The university’s efforts resulted in an 82 percent increase in nonresident enrollment from academic years 2010–11 through 2014–15, or 18,000 students, but coincided with a drop in resident enrollment by 1 percent, or 2,200 students, over that same time period.” As the number of students from California attending the UC system has stayed flat, the number of nonresident students has increased dramatically.  This statistic alone appears to support our fears that students from California have been crowded out of the system because as the population has increased and the number of enrolled students has increased, the number of in-state students has actually gone down. In a response to the audit, the UC flatly rejects the facts by offering several explanations, but the bottom line cannot be denied: as the state reduced its funding, the UC looked for a way to increase support by enrolling nonresident students and this reduced the number of students from California in the system.

One way that the UC started to cater to nonresident students was to lower the admission’s standards for these high-paying students: “According to the Master Plan for Higher Education in California, which proposes the roles for each of the State’s institutions of higher education, the university should only admit nonresidents who possess academic qualifications that are equivalent to those of the upper half of residents who are eligible for admission. However, in 2011 the university
relaxed this admission standard to state that nonresidents need only to “compare favorably” to residents.” The report here points out that in order to attract more high-paying nonresident students, it gave them an advantage that went against the Master Plan.   

UC likes to claim that it has done nothing wrong because it still accepts all eligible students from California, but as the audit points out, this compliance is based on giving students who did not apply to Merced admissions to a campus that 98% of them will reject: “At the same time, the university denied admission to an increasing proportion of qualified residents at the campus to which they applied—nearly 11,000 in academic year 2014–15 alone—and instead referred them to an alternate campus. However, only about 2 percent of residents who the university referred actually enrolled. Moreover, increasing numbers of nonresident students have enrolled in the five most popular majors that the university offers at the same time that resident enrollment has generally declined in those same majors.” Not only are students from California being crowded out of their desired campuses, but they are also being pushed out of their desired majors.

This blog has stressed that as students from California are being excluded from a system built out of state tax dollars, the students who do get in are often funded at unequal rates: “Moreover, the university’s funding allocation decisions have not completely resolved its unequal distribution of per-student state funding across its campuses, resulting in certain campuses continuing to receive less state funds per student than others. After several reports identified inequity in per‑student funding among the campuses and a lack of transparency in how the university distributes that funding, the university embarked on an effort which it refers to as rebenching. However, we identified several problems with rebenching, including the fact that the university does not base the formula it uses to redistribute funds on the amounts it actually costs to educate different types of students. The university also excluded $886 million in state funds from the amount it distributes to campuses through per‑student funding for fiscal year 2014–15 for programs that do not relate directly to educating students. Further, even though the university asserts that the additional revenue from its increased enrollment of nonresidents allows it to improve education quality and enroll more residents, the university does not give campuses spending guidance or track how they use these funds. Lacking such guidance or oversight, we found campuses spend these funds in an inconsistent manner.” Even though rebenching was supposed to even out the funding among the campuses, the result has been an increase in inequity because the unequal distribution of nonresident tuition far exceeds the small money of rebenched state funds. Moreover, the UC has continued to refuse to try to calculate the real cost of educating students, and instead of being transparent, it continues to spend money on producing trumped up reports. 

The UC office of Denial refuses to admit that the reliance on nonresident student tuition has undermined the diversity of the student body, but the audit tells a different story: “Admission decisions have hampered efforts for its student body to reflect the diversity of the State—only 11 percent of the increasing number of nonresident undergraduates were from underrepresented minorities in academic year 2014–15.” In a state that has close to 50% of its population categorized as underrepresented, the use of nonresident students does indeed reduce diversity and opportunity. 

It is important to stress that as the diversity of the system decreases, the money spent on each under-represented student has also decreased: “not including nonresident revenue in a per-student funding calculation contributes to the persistence of per-student funding inequities among the campuses. These funding inequities have continued to disproportionately affect underrepresented minority students. Specifically, the highest‑funded campuses hen we include nonresident revenue—Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego—are among the four campuses with the lowest percentage of underrepresented minority students.”  As we have seen throughout the country, the solution of replacing state funds with nonresident tuition has made college more unaffordable and unequal for everyone. Students from different states are being shut out of their own state universities, and so they are having to pay high tuition to go to out-of-state school, private universities, and for-profit colleges.   

The auditor’s main solution is for the state to increase its funding to the system so that the UC can reduce the number of nonresident students and open spaces for resident students: “Implementing a 5 percent limit on new nonresident enrollment would allow the university to enroll an equivalent number of additional new resident undergraduate students per year—about 7,200—more than the number it enrolled in academic year 2014–15. Requiring the university to enroll these additional residents would necessitate an increased annual financial commitment from both the university and the State to compensate for the increased enrollment of resident undergraduates and the decrease of nonresidents. If the Legislature were to commit additional funds to the university for the purpose of meeting agreed-upon enrollment percentages, it could do so using a phased-in approach.” The UC should welcome this rational approach, but instead, it can only respond through a blanket denial and rejection.

UC’s main response is to say that in the next three years, they plan to bring in 10,000 additional students from California.  However, since they are only getting $5,000 from the state for each student, we have to ask what is going to happen to the underfunded campuses with the highest number of underrepresented students from California? The answer is that they will receive an inferior education with huge classes and little personal attention. This is what separate and unequal educational funding looks like.