This is Part 3 of an interview with Chancellor Blumenthal held on Nov. 2nd. Click here to view Part 1 and to hear the full audio recording.
Reporter: Going back to student fees some of the flagship UC campuses are cash neutral in the amount of money they pay in student fees compared to the amount of money that comes back to them. What measures have you taken, I know you mentioned earlier that you have spoken to Yudof about that. What is that dialogue like?
Blumenthal: (laughs) Well, you’ve touched a nerve because this has been a big issue of mine for three years, the three years I’ve been in office. So I’ve been talking about this for three years. I’ve had many dialogues with the current president and the former president. I’ve had dialogues with the vice president of budge on this issue and with the executive vice presidents on this issue. And not without some success, as I say I think it was through my efforts that we changed it from 67% to 82%. I didn’t see anyone else screaming about it when I was screaming about it, so I will take credit for that. The dialogue continues, and I’ve raised the issue with the council of chancellors and I’ve continued to raise it with president Yudof, and as you know I’ve raised it in student media because you know I believe you students have a right to know what happens to your money.
Reporter: What made you successful, when you got that 20%? What do you think it was?
Blumenthal: I’d love to tell you it’s the logic of my reasoning, but if that were the case I would have succeeded all the way. The honest answer is that I think everyone recognized there was some error to that argument, but for a variety of reasons, we’re unwilling to go all the way. I think President Yudof in one of his interviews said this publicly.
Reporter: So what stopped them at 82%?
Blumenthal: Because if they give it to us, they feel like they have a problem, not only with funding the other campuses but more importantly with their whole funding model for the UC. The assumptions that they go by. Whereas I would argue we need to reexamine that finding model for how the campuses are funded.
Reporter #2: Regarding that, we spoke a while ago about the allocation of funds regarding grad students and the various population of grad students across the UCs. Can you explain that, can you expand on that a little? Because I know these are kind of related. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Blumenthal: I think I know what you are talking about. This is the history of how we got to where we are, in terms of budgets.
R #2: Ya, and why also, haven’t we changed that?
Blumenthal: (laughs) I’m sorry, don’t quote that “ha”. If you don’t mind I need to give a little background. It used to be the case in the UC system that the campuses were funded on a per-student basis, but with a weighted formula, so that a freshman brought x dollars to the campus in state funding, but a graduate student brought 2.5x and if the graduate student had advance to candidacy for a PhD, they would bring 3.5 times that. So there was a weighted formula so the budget of each campus was determined by the mix of students that they had. And that was the policy for the university up until about 12 years ago. And 12 years ago the university changed, so that the amount of money for increased enrollments that a campus gets is irrespective of whether student is a freshman or an advanced graduate student. Why is this even relevant to anything? The reason is, is that when they changed the formula, what they did is they froze the allocations to the campus. They said ‘these are your allocations and we will only give you money for increased enrollments after that. As a result, if you were to ask the question ‘how much money does each campus get per student of state money?’. Simple question. Well it doesn’t have a simple answer because some campuses have medical schools. Alright so take out the medical schools, those are a big operation with lots of money. If you ask the question about everything other than medical schools, what you’ll find is a relatively large disparity of state funds going to each campus on a per-student basis. So that if you were gonna compare Santa Cruz to for example Berkeley, there’s almost $5,000 difference in dollars per student going to the campus. And that difference arises from this historical- I was gonna say quirk but maybe it isn’t a quirk- maybe it was a good thing. Whatever they did it was a historical basis that this was done at a time when Berkeley had a lot of graduate students and we had few graduate students, so their funding formula was much richer. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I’m just saying that is the history, and when we look at the result of all that old history and there are other pieces of history as well which I could go into but which might bore you to death. The bottom line is that we are not funded on a per-student basis as well as some of the other campuses. We are not the worst, we are not the lowest. So I take great pleasure in that, but we’re well below the average of the UC system.
Reporter #2: That has to do with us being a growth campus. What are the others, Riverside….
Blumenthal: The other campuses that are lower are Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Irvine.
R #2: What constitutes a ‘growth campus’?
Blumenthal: A campus that’s growing, particularly at the undergraduate level.
Sarah: So in regards to the students, what are the moves typically included in a move to privatization. Does that include having more students form out of state? How many students do we accept from out of state?
Blumenthal: On this campus it’s relatively low. I don’t know what we accept, but what we enroll is about 4% from out of state.
Sarah: It’s 4.7. Is that the same across the UC campuses?
Blumenthal: No. I think Berkeley is talking about 13% for this next year. And Berkeley certainly over 10%. And I think UCLA is looking to increase their numbers as well. So it is NOT uniform across the campuses. It does raise issues. Let me acknowledge that. First of all, I think there is a benefit to the campus, not just financial but I also think cultural benefit to the campus to have students from either other states or other countries enrolled here. I think you as students benefit from having that cultural diversity. So I really think that is important. On the other hand, then, is the question of ‘how much is too much?’ And that’s where I think there is a legitimate discussion. Some people would say 4% is too much, some people would say 13% is too much, some people would say in tough budget times anything goes until you hit 20%. At some point, the presence of out of state students will make the university less accessible for in-state students. And since I’ve said many times that I think accessibility for California students is one of the key major missions of the university. Obviously I would have reservations if we did something that would limit that accessibility. On the other hand, if you are interpreting me of being critical of other campuses, it’s hard for me to do that because they’re in financial straits. They can argue that they need that income to meet the needs of their students. It’s a dilemma, you can make the case both ways.
Sarah: Do we have a cap? Do any of the UCs have a cap?
Blumenthal: We don’t have a cap. Well I think there would be political consequences if that percentage got too high.
Reporter: Are we looking to increase enrollment in out-of-state students? I know Berkeley is to try to create revenue.
Blumenthal: I would probably be amenable to increasing out-of-state students above 4%, but I wouldn’t want to go too high just for the reasons of accessibility
Reporter #2: So back to how much we get for each student. Are they gonna address it anytime? Are they gonna make it equal?
Blumenthal: I wish that were the case. I would argue that that should be the case. The reality is its very hard to say we should address a problem if getting more means taking it away from someone else. A much better time to be addressing these issues is when you’re growing and more resources are flowing into they system. Then it becomes a matter of allocating it in a way that will lessen the disparities that exist among the campuses.
R #2: But this has been going on so long, because they stopped that 20 years ago and it’s not like we’ve been in a recession for 20 years.
Blumenthal: I’m not disagreeing with your principle, just trying to inject a note of practicality in terms of what’s likely to happen. For the moment I would be very very happy if the first thing that happened was if we addressed the issues of how fee increases are distributed. That would be a major step in the right direction, but I think in the long run we do have to address the issue of how we allocate money among the campuses.
R #2: This information isn’t anywhere. I asked Yudof about this and he said “oh, you just missed it on our web site” He said you ran into some problems with that…
Blumenthal: That was some years ago. When I became chancellor-acting chancellor, actually- I asked for that information and in fact it wasn’t available and we had to generate it ourselves. But the truth is I think that the Office of the President is much more transparent today. When we’re given a budget from the Office of the President, they now let us know what all the other campuses get as well. I have to give them credit, they’ve been much more transparent about the issue so it isn’t hidden under the table. Where it is on the web I couldn’t tell you, but I suspect it’s up there.
(Jacob asks for printouts of the info)
Let me say it a different way: the reality is that almost any document that I have that isn’t marked confidential across it is available ultimately by public records requests. So if it’s available by public records requests I don’t think that we should be withholding it from you. Again, I’ll have to check to make sure what is available and what is not. My view is that budget information should be freely available, and our campus has been remarkably good about that the last four or five years. We published on our planning and budget web site a document every year, updated on an annual basis- it’s called a bird’s eye view- it has all of the budget information for the campus. It shows where every dollar is spent, it’s a long document, about 100 or 200 pages. Be green, don’t print it unless you need to. But it’s up there, it’s on our planning and budget web site.
To read Part 4 of this interview, click here.
Jenny Cain, Sarah Naugle, Molly Carter and Thomas Todd contributed to reporting.