When Chancellor George Blumenthal came into office over four years ago, it came as a surprise when he was refused access to information on the amount of state funds spent per student per year on each UC campus. The shock intensified when Blumenthal discovered later that student fees were not distributed back to the campuses from which they were collected — instead, funds were allocated somewhat unequally among the separate UC campuses.
Since then, UC Santa Cruz has introduced a process known as rebenching, put in place over a year ago to reevaluate how state money is allocated among the campuses. Rebenching has already ensured tuition money is redistributed back to the campuses from which it is collected.
Based on current estimates, Academic Senate Chair, Susan Gillman said budgetary reform could add $1.7 to 3 million a year, rivaling some of the university’s best fundraising years.
“It would be a stable source of income that would allow us to hire more faculty and to redirect money back to the classroom where student-faculty ratios are rising, unacceptably,” Gillman said.
On the rebenching committee, Blumenthal and Gillman represent UCSC’s role within the 10-campus system.
The committee had their last meeting about two months ago, but the budget office at the UC Office of the President has yet to produce an initial draft of an updated plan. Such a draft would outline all of their meetings with a set of recommendations for the UC President regarding redistribution of tuition fees, including a solution to unequal apportionment of increases and cuts in state funding among the UC campuses. Without a draft to review and implement, disparities in state funding among the UC campuses remains significant.
“Each student pays the same tuition,” Gillman said. “The amount that the state gives per student is also the same across the system, but the campuses do not get that amount equally.”
Gillman said unequal funding reflects and compounds the historical fact that each campus has a different permanent base budget. The UC Office of the President makes incremental adjustments to these base amounts in accordance with the percentage of state funding cuts and increases.
But a given percentage will account for a higher amount at a campus with a larger base budget than at one with a smaller base amount. For example, a 5 percent increase in funding at UCLA would come out to about $9,700 per student, while it would roughly be a $6,400 increase per student at UCSC.
Although the committee has yet to produce a report, Jim Chalfant, chair of the University Committee on Planning and Budget, said how the UC spends state funding is crucial to the rebenching effort.
“Having an easily understood transparent model should play a significant role in us being able to convey to the state how critically important their partnership is with keeping us a public university,” Chalfant said.
Chalfant said from there, the UC must deploy state funding in the most effective way possible. If all 10 campuses work together in this process, the UC can meet its obligation of ensuring a quality UC education at every campus.
Gillman said this effort reflects the root motive behind the rebenching movement, to address the three goals of the UC — access, affordability and quality of education.
“Our anticipation is that this will be a great benefit to the campus,” Blumenthal said. “I anticipate a report. I would’ve told you I expected the report to be out a month ago, but that obviously hasn’t happened, now I’m telling you soon.”
Once the budget office at the UC Office of the President releases a draft, the committee will have to sign off on it. Following this, it will be subject to review and comments. Once the UC president reviews it, he will decide if it will be implemented.