For the full transcript, visit http://www.dailycal.org/article/107121/uc_president_discusses_systemwide_financial_crisis.
In wake of the University of California’s dire financial situation, student media from UCSC, UC Berkeley and UC Merced met with UC President Mark Yudof to discuss various issues confronting the university. The Project, TWANAS, KZSC, and City on a Hill Press were among UCSC organizations given the chance to question the president.
City on a Hill Press (CHP): What do you make of the UC’s current state in view of thousands of university employee layoffs, a furlough program and the overall budget shortfall?
It’s a terrible body blow. And we could talk about the reasons for it, but it basically has to do with the current economic melt and what I would call the dysfunctional state government of California.
Now, you’re going to say, “Why don’t you go up to Sacramento and rant and rave?” Well, I went up and I ranted and I raved. We now have a group of advocates. We have 200,000 people on [an email] list now. And in the last six weeks, we have sent 25,000 letters to [the state of California] … So we tried to put on a lot of heat, but in fact, Sacramento had largely shut down.
Daily Californian (DC): Do you think letter-writing is the way to get out of this? How does the UC Regent system interact with the state legislature?
I don’t think it’s enough. So let me answer that. I think we need to continue doing it. We now have 200,000 advocates on our e-list that we can contact and say, “The University has a financial problem in Sacramento. We have an issue with this or that. Can you help us out by contacting?”
I think we need an education campaign. We have to get the bigger message out there that it isn’t just if you have a family member at the university and it isn’t just if you work there, but that we’re enormously important to the quality of your life, and we’re enormously important to the success of the economy of California. Great research universities are a magnet for talented people. And if they come here and they stay, it benefits our population and it ultimately leads to more jobs and so forth.
The Project: You’ve talked about the hybrid model: part public, part private. But the increasing trend toward privatization, or the increasing dependency on private funding for education to function, at the UC seems like it’s been really fast.
I’m opposed to privatization, if by privatization you mean we want to turn this into a private university setting its own agenda, charging the students the full freight, I’m opposed.
What we have is a mixed model where the state gave us $15,000 per student in 1990 in today’s dollars, and gives us $7,800 today. The question is how do you maintain quality, and one of the ways you do it is you raise prices.
The Project: Do you specifically, or does the Board of Regents, have any sort of protection plan for programs or majors that do not get as much private funding? For example, the engineering department at Santa Cruz versus the community studies major, which is being phased out because it doesn’t get private money.
If you’re dean of engineering or law or medicine, you’re more likely to get gifts than if you are in the humanities or the social sciences. So there’s this sort of unevenness. They’re pulling the state money out of the schools that can be self-supporting, primarily, business and law schools. The money that’s being pulled out can then be deployed in liberal arts and so forth. So that’s one part of the plan.
Another part of the plan is I am going to Sacramento. I’m going to ask them for $900 million. We really need $2 billion but I’m going to ask them for $900 million. I keep plugging away, because the primary support for majors like you comes from the state appropriations.
And the third thing is, I did a white paper on what I think would be an appropriate federal role, which is somewhat different than it is now. That’s another source. Finally, things like scholarship drives, particularly if we don’t have too many limitations on what the scholarships are for, can be a ready source of help for students who are in the humanities, communications, and all the rest of that. It’s a battle and it’s a tough problem, and I don’t have a silver bullet for you. I wish I did.
CHP: Is the state of California unreliable or is it the economy that’s unreliable?
The state’s unreliable, in my opinion. If it had just been this economy, and I admit it’s tough, terrible, the foreclosures and everything’s gone wrong. But we’ve been losing ground since 1990. You have $1,500 spent on students in 1990 and $7,800 today. That means even in relatively good times, the money is going elsewhere. This is the most salient thing that’s happened. It’s the biggest dip. But it’s really the exclamation point on a long paragraph of declining support from the state of California.
DC: Can we fix higher education funding without fixing the state government system? Do you see higher education funding stabilizing with the current system we have?
My goal is to have a reset and to stabilize it in 2010-11 with the budget stop the bleeding, the furloughs. Put more money in the scholarships to ameliorate what’s happening there. And then as I say, go off to Sacramento with that reset to try to get more money. If over five to 10 years it doesn’t stabilize, we’ll be faced with some very difficult choices.