Audio from Blumenthal Q&A. Courtesy KZSC.
Audio courtesy KZSC.
UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal provided student media with an afternoon to discuss issues facing the University on Nov. 2. City on a Hill Press, along with KZSC, touched on the topics of privatization and UC President Mark Yudof’s handling of the budget crisis. Jim Burns, the director of public information, and student media advisors, were present in the background of the hour-long interview.
Blumenthal: I didn’t prepare a lot to tell you, I more or less was wanting to be available for questions but I did want to comment on three things first in about two weeks the regents will be meeting and one of the things they will be looking at is fee increases for students, a 15% mid-year fee increase and a 15% increase for next year. This is huge, this is gonna make a huge difference in people’s payments to the university. Yes we will be keeping return to aid (?), that we can provide financial aid, yes indeed, the blue and gold program is being expanded, but our fees are starting to be very very significant. I happen to be one of those people who believe in the Master Plan for Higher Education which actual called for higher public education in California to be free so this is not something that I view with great pleasure. On the other hand I will also say to you that if we didn’t have fee increases the loss of services to students would be significant. Students are paying more and getting fewer classes and the situation would be more extreme if we didn’t have some income from fees. So I know there has been a lot of discussion about the privatization of the university and are we privatizing or not. Well whatever we’re doing, this didn’t just start yesterday, this has been going on for a long time. I’d remind you that since 1990, the amount of money we get from the state of California per student has declined by 50%. To me that’s a huge huge change. It all just didn’t happen overnight. The last two years, our support per student from the state has decreased by about $3,000 per student. That’s $3,000 per student. So again that’ hug and we’re struggling with should there be fee increases but if we have any fee increases what that would mean in terms of the classes that we can offer. Those are the kinds of issues that will be discussed at the regents meeting, and I know every student is interested in that and it sounds like everyone has an opinion. And again just to emphasize the real issue to me is the long-term issue. Are we gonna really provide aceess to higher education for the people of California? And are we gonna stay with out concept of providing essentially free higher education? We violated it already, we’ve gotten to a point that is very hard to return from and if we go much further down this road it will be even harder to return. Secondly, I just wanted to acknowledge your role as student media. I was very gratified to see some questions that were asked to President Yudof and others about the uses of student fees. As those of you who have been here before know that one of the bees in my bonnet so to speak is that student fees are not returned back to the campus where they’re collected. So the fee increases over the last three or four or five or six fee increases have generally not gone back to the campus where they’ve been collected. We get most of the money but most is not the same as all, and I don’t like the idea that students at UC Santa Cruz by paying increased fees, they’re in fact supporting other institutions. I think that if you’re paying more money you should have the knowledge you’re supporting your own institution. So I just want to acknowledge the fact that as media you’ve brought that issue to the fore and I want to thank you for that. And the last thing I just want to mention is that, boy I cant get off the budget, is that next week we will be having two budget forums. Dave Kliger and I will be holding two forums on November 10th and they’re certainly open to the public. We will be answering questions about the budget. And so with that, I’d like to open it up to your questions.
Reporter: If the regents approve a 32% student fee increase this fall, will the 20% we’re paying as UCSC students in student fees that’s not coming back to us, will that also proportionately increase?
Blumenthal: I’m not sure I understood your question, I understood the 32% I’m not sure I understand the 20%
Reporter: It’s my understanding that 80% of UCSC student fees stay at UCSC and the other 20% is dispersed throughout the system to cover costs outside our university.
Blumenthal: I’m not sure if it’s exactly 80/20, I think its more like 82/18, but you cant quote me on that. Now that I understand the numbers could you repeat your question?
Reporter: (repeats question).
Blumenthal: If there’s a 32% increase, what will happen is we’ll get back of that increase, under current policy unless they change it, we would get back about 82% of that 32% increase. Does that answer your question?
Reporter #2: So when we spoke with Yudof, he actually said that when we asked the question the allocation of student funds, or fees, that they really hadn’t actually talked about that since he came into the position. And so you mentioned that they started talking about that?
Blumenthal: They definitely have started talking about that. In fact we’ve discussed it at the council of chancellors meeting. To try to put it into some perspective, when I became the acting chancellor here three years ago, it wasn’t 80 or 82% that we were getting back, it was 67%. I actually regard it as a major plus that they’ve changed it from 67% to 82%. But I don’t think there is any principled reason why it should be anything less than 100%. I think the students on this campus deserve to know that when they write a check for fees that its at least going to go to the campus, where they’re gonna derive some benefit from it.
Reporter #2: Yudof actually agrees with that and says it should be 100% back so what needs to be done for this to be changed ?
Blumenthal: This is a policy for the president and the president’s office to make a decision on. Ultimately that decision lies there. It isn’t typically a regents decision about how money is allocated. Typically that’s delegated to the president and the president’s office. They’re the people that I’ve been talking to all along.
Jenny Cain, Sarah Naugle, Molly Carter and Thomas Todd contributed to reporting.