Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why California's University Costs Are Rising So Much

I don't want to kick in one more cent of tax money until this is addressed:
Yet UC’s annual spending exceeds that of most state governments, amounting to roughly $100,000 for each of its students. Much of this is unrelated to instructional function. The university’s bureaucracy is famously monumental, centralized and costly: Aside from a full cohort of administrators and support staff at each of the 10 campuses, the central office in Oakland employs more than 2,000 workers, a staggering number (2,358 full-time employees, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System). There are 10 “divisions” in the Office of the President, for example. Its “external relations” division lists more than 55 managerial-type employees on organizational charts, and that number doesn’t include support personnel.

The “business operations” and “academic affairs” divisions are much larger. One senior non-UC university president said to me once that the central office could be reduced by more than half and the university wouldn’t suffer.

The university took some budgetary hits from the state in recent years but offset them with huge tuition increases. No serious attempt was made to vastly cut costs. How many senior faculty at, say, Berkeley teach more than 200 hours a year? How much of the so-called research by these professors is read or cited? I suspect a lot of it has little impact. How many buildings lie largely dormant for months each year?


Auntie Ann said...

Does this include running the system's teaching hospitals?

If it does, I'd like to see the stats with university hospitals removed. How much of the big salaries are going to staff doctors, and how much of the management costs are eaten up running part of our notoriously inefficient health care system.

Anonymous said...

A good start for where the money goes (and where it comes from) is here: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/factsheets/thefacts_budgetbasics_0313.pdf

Mark Roulo

maxutils said...

How about not admitting people who need to take high school math and English classes?

Auntie Ann said...

That link shows that 27% of revenues come from the medical centers, but it doesn't break out the expenditure side--the administration of the UC hospitals, the salaries of medical personnel, the medical-facility costs, indigent care, battling insurers, etc.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Unfortunately, you've got two problems with that.

First, it's a well-entrenched belief that higher education leads to higher income. At the macro level it's true and that's enough for most people so they generalize to their particular case when they're deciding what to do about college. That can be a very bad idea if it's a field that's pretty small, isn't particularly well paid or has a very big pay difference between the top tier and everyone else in the field.

Second, there's a pretty powerful, pretty large constituency in favor of every higher budgets for higher education. Some of them have a direct interest like administrator, teaching staff, suppliers etc. Some assume reflexively that money's the universal fertilizer and indiscriminately sprinkling it on their causes results in more of what they want.

I just wonder whether the municipal unions, by precipitating a fiscal crisis that threatens the fiscal stability of a bunch of states, may force fiscal responsibility on many of the rent-seekers by forcing fiscal responsibility on their governmental sugar daddies.

momof4 said...

I'm willing to bet that there are lots of empty classrooms and buildings during the academic year - because kids/profs want classes between 10-2 M-Th. When I was in school, almost every freshman, and many sophomores, had Saturday-morning classes, as well as classes at all hours during the week. Daytime classes ran from 8-5. It usually wasn't until junior or senior year that kids had classes in "prime hours" - and not then if they had labs or practicums.

Maxutils: Better yet, admit only those kids whose SAT/ACT scores correlate with satisfactory performance in the usual freshman courses, which should have designated weeder courses to remove the unprepared or unmotivated. By doing so, much of the "diversity" and academic-support apparatus is unnecessary and can be removed. Remove all useless, politicized classes/departments (start with XYZ studies) and reduce the number of admins by at least 25%, starting at the top.

Anonymous said...

"How about not admitting people who need to take high school math and English classes?"

This is crazy talk ... but if we simply changed the admissions standards so that only students ready to begin college level work were admitted, all the budget problems would go away(*).

But you'd wind up cutting the admits to the CalState system by about 1/2. And probably cutting the admits to the UC system by 1/3 or so. I'd expect that some of the kids who were still good enough to go to a CalState might go instead to a UC campus, but the upshot is that we'd probably close 2-3 UC campuses and 12-15 of the CalState cmpuses. If California kept the state subsidy total the same, we wouldn't need to raise tuitions for a while.

But ... closing 15-ish state run colleges would also involve getting rid of a bunch of professors and the admin staff at those schools. So ... I'd expect that they would re-define "college ready" such that the remedial classes would now be for college credit. In effect, we would *NOT* turn away the kids who needed remedial classes, we would instead redefine things so that the remedial classes now counted towards graduation requirements.

I have no idea how, in practice, to solve this sort of problem. You'd basically need the state legislature to change the rules on them by shutting down the campuses and changing the admissions standards in the face of faculty/administration opposition. In theory, this is doable. In practice, not for a long time (if ever).

-Mark Roulo

(*) The budget problem is only solved in the short term, because the surviving folks in the university system would eventually grow their spending (and/or the state would cut its subsidies) until we had another university budget crisis. But Cutting 40% of the campuses would solve things for a while (5-10 years maybe).

maxutils said...

Momof4: You're right, of course, but SAT and ACT are not great predictors of academic performance, except at the highest levels. When I went to UC Davis, I was in a dorm of with about 30 other freshmen ... and I was one of about 10 who wasn't taking either remedial English or math. There were a good 15 on academic probation after the first semester. But ... they got in, even before we relaxed standards in CA. It's worse now. My experience with class times? Freshman year I was taking calculus at 8am, 4 days a week. I had a film as literature class at 7pm. And I had to beg a professor to let me in to a Mark Twain seminar ... I don't think use of classroom space is that much of an issue.

MarkRoulo: There are a couple of things we could do. First, we could acknowledge that not everyone needs or wants to go to college. There are plenty of jobs that don't require a degree, but do require specific training, that pay really well. The remedial classes offered now actually DO NOT count for college credit -- but they still cost money to teach. I'm not sure you'd have complaints from the faculty -- they can't enjoy teaching algebra 1 on a college campus, and all of CA's colleges and universities are severely overcrowded -- so it would be much better for them if you eliminated the classes that shouldn't be taught, and reduced class sizes across the board. I doubt strongly that anything would need to close ...

Darren said...

The old SAT, the one with analogies and such, used to be an exceptional predictor of college *freshman* grades/success. Change the test, lose the predictive ability.

Anonymous said...

I also just read that the SAT has reduced the spatial-reasoning component, on the verbal and particularly on the math, because it tended to favor both males and Asians - can't have that. That component, however, is a regular component of IQ tests. I can't verify the truth of either, but it makes sense, in the current climate.

Yeah, the analogies were real killers on the old SAT, which is why they're gone. Between that and re-norming, the SAT is a shadow of its former self. My grad school used the Miller Analogies test for admission to both master's and doctoral programs, with the latter having a significantly higher cut score. I got my doc degree in 88,checked out the admission reqs a few years ago, and the school now uses the GRE - undoubtedly for good reason. You don't hit the MA test without being a pretty serious reader.

PeggyU said...

There's this. What is considered to be a "strong" correlation? I guess I was thinking their r values should be closer to 1, but then I'm no statistician.

Darren said...

Usually, Peggy, a "strong" correlation would be much closer to +/-1 than to 0. I've not heard of the test you linked to.

neko said...

"closing 15-ish state run colleges would also involve getting rid of a bunch of professors..."

Where would they go? I doubt they could make it in the private sector. Many of them probably couldn't deal with the real world. You know what they say, "those who can't do, teach."

(Hmmm, probably not the best thing to say on a blog written by and frequented by teachers... ^_^)