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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rose Aguilar had a segment of her show "Your Call" on KALC that focused on the UC Budget and the need for transparency. UCOP apparently decided was not to send someone to talk on public radio in San Francisco. But luckily Chris participated along with Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee and Kevin Sabo of UCSA.

You can find the episode HERE


Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015
As you may have heard, UC Care is suffering even more problems (or I should say people enrolled in UC Care are suffering more problems) as it heads into its second year.  On the one hand there are considerably higher premiums on many policies (you can see the new figures here and compare with your old payments).  But on the other, and even more significantly, UC Care continues to struggle to maintain Tier 1 service for all of the campuses.

On this issue, the most striking problem is the ongoing battle between Blue Shield and the Sutter Health system of hospitals.  The contract between Blue Shield and Sutter Health expired at the end of 2014 and conflicts between the two huge systems have prevented a new contract from being signed. UC is reporting that both sides have agreed, however, to a de facto extension of six months so that subscribers are not in any immediate danger of finding themselves without a health plan.  Both systems are seeking to portray themselves as defenders of patients (Sutter claims Blue Shield is trying to reduce payments while Blue Shield claims they are seeking to protect patients from imposed arbitration agreements and the potential of hiked premiums).  But of course each side is seeking to protect their own quite large revenues.

Although outside the control of UC, this crisis is reminiscent of the ongoing problems facing employees at UCSB.  As the UCSB Faculty Association has pointed out, UCSB still does not have Tier 1 access at the only full service hospital in their area.  If Blue Shield and Sutter Health cannot work the problem out, it is possible that the majority of the non-medical campuses will be left without access to their traditional range of health care options.

UC has provided some numbers to call at Blue Shield if you are having problems.  They can be found here.  It is also possible that other costs may go up during this dispute.


UPDATE:  Blue Cross and Sutter Health have agreed to a new 2 year contract.  You can find the press release HERE.
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 0

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015
Here's a quick update on my way back from Vancouver, where I attended the Modern Language Association meeting.  Jeff Williams and I had a panel featuring some of the issues in our Johns Hopkins University Press book series on Critical University Studies: Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed covered it here.  Send us a book proposal!  Universities aren't going to recover or have the intellectual functions the world needs unless faculty get actively involved in their redesign. We're equally interested in historical work.

I also have a piece today at Inside Higher Ed on the weakening of the austerity logic that has been ruling public universities. Entitled, "The Higher Ed Austerity Deal is Falling Apart," it argues that three major (albeit unwilling) political partners are getting tired of accepting the "new normal" of never-enough-revenues at too-high tuition rates.  

I start by pointing out that 2015 promises more of the same, and then analyze the fractures that became visible at the November regents' meeting.  My premise is that austerity isn't a natural effect of the economy but the effect of a tacit political alliance among the major players that includes senior university managers, faculty, and students. The UC story will be familiar to blog readers;  the second half of the piece, less so.

At one point, I write, 
Although austerity theory still rules public colleges, three of its major players no longer project future benefit from following their scripted roles: cutting and squeezing (administration), political compliance (governing boards), and tolerance for higher tuition and debt (students). It has become clear to them that these austerity policies will never make things better. 
When I re-read the piece this morning on line, I stumbled at that second sentence. Do these folks really know that only one engine is getting fuel and that therefore the plane is losing altitude? On reflection I think yet again that the answer is yes.  UC admin has been talking about the structural deficit to the regents for several years, and the students who spoke out last fall now think the Democrats are using the tuition freeze to let themselves off the funding hook.  

The question is more what to do with this knowledge. The immediate answer is to spell out the research and the teaching that get disappeared by funding shortfalls.  

At the MLA, there was an obvious conflict between the brilliance of the work, which has intellectual scope and depth that are better than ever, and the resources to finish and disseminate the research, which are nearly nonexistent. Our panel respondent, for example, was a grad student who couldn't afford to travel to Vancouver and thus went missing.  Sponsors of extramurally-funded research often require conference travel and fund their requirement.  On this point the humanities are underwater, with predictable delays.  Younger MLA scholars have never in my view been doing richer, more ambitious work with more important public implications--and yet never have more incomplete support to get it finished.

Second, there's teaching.  I'm on the MLA's Delegate Assembly, and on Saturday, at the end of a six hour meeting with a sustained focus on academic freedom, the Association's officers asked for input from the floor about how to respond to Arizona State University's recent raising of teaching loads for its non-tenure track (NTT) writing instructors by 25 percent (to 5-5), with no increase in pay.  An ASU dean was in the audience to explain the administration's rationale, which was that all university faculty have a notional five-course load per term, and the tenure track faculty who teach two courses per term are getting three courses of credit for research and service.   All the admin was doing, he said, was regularizing a lot of NTT instructors while rationalizing their workloads. 

The assembly took a dim view of this and of the other pieces of the dean's explanation. Many people objected to the exploitation of faculty who are now expected to offer meaningful feedback to 125 writing students a term.  Others pointed out the unilateral nature of the decision, in which admin tells faculty what to do with no regard for faculty expertise.  

My concern is also with the administrative framing. This assumes that college writing instruction is a commodity, both in terms of the instructor who delivers it, who need not be paid even the median US wage for 125 students, and of the student who is trying to master a skill by responding to individual feedback on their work.  ASU has a sophisticated idea of public education that is active and process oriented (see the linked article above), and yet asks instructors to deliver it under high school working conditions.  Why does anyone think you can create skills at a college level with a high school teaching load and for less than a high-school teaching wage? Because it's convenient to think that, because it allows cross-subsidies to think that, but also because administrators--and faculty--haven't spelled out in educational detail why we can't. 

Faculty need not simply to reject the framework but to explain why it's wrong: why we don't and can't have five courses as a teaching baseline for college instruction, for starters. We need to explain what students are supposed to learn in a writing class, show the level and type of feedback that requires, and then explain the working conditions that make that possible, including the maximum number of students that one can have to grade a certain number of pages per term with the cognitively required feedback.

Yes I know: who thought we were going to have to do this kind of explaining just so we could do our jobs? But this is how it is, and has been since the 1980s. The good news is that it marks the way colleges and universities are a decisive social power, which is why they are being fought over so relentlessly.

I thought about this when I happened on an article yesterday about tactics.  "The immediate response is bound to be a defensive one: fight the cuts." Yes, I thought, admin is finally doing this, as some faculty have done for years, but the power of the austerity framework, as the author writes, "has exposed the limited character of a struggle which remains a defensive one." 

The author continues to say that the defensive struggle "will get us nowhere if it is posed simply as a return to a state of things before the deluge"--very true! And it "cannot succeed unless it contains an active and positive content--of a new kind."  This new content, he concludes, needs to be embedded not in temporary and opportunistic political associations, but in "real and durable historical alliances" that lead to a "genuinely popular democratic social force."  This will involve, however, the transformation of "all the forces which are to be pulled together in this way."  

As some of you have guessed, the author was Stuart Hall, the year was 1980, and the subject was "Thatcherism--a new stage?"  University austerity is Thatcherism, historically and conceptually, but as I argue in the IHE piece it is now applied by Democrats and Labour as well as a by Republicans and Conservatives.  Opposition has not succeeded for Hall's reasons, which are insufficiencies of imagination and organization. In other words, we anti-austerians are not beating our heads against an inevitable historical trend or economic destiny, but have some new work to do.

So send us a book proposal!
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 0

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015
Governor Brown released his 2015-2016 budget proposal today. As expected he demonstrated no willingness to back off in his opposition to tuition increases at UC and CSU or to attempt to buy them out.  Instead, he insisted that his own long-term proposals for Higher Education funding were correct and demanded more responsiveness from the segments.  We will be back with more in the near future but I wanted to point out some of the most significant points.

1. The Governor has kept to his plan to provide approximately 4% increases to both CSU and UC. (38)

2) But he has reaffirmed that this additional funding is contingent on the segments not raising tuition and, in the case of UC, not increasing non-state enrollment.  The language is as follows:

For UC:
General Fund Increase—An ongoing increase of $119.5 million General Fund
contingent upon the University keeping tuition at 2011‑12 levels in 2015‑16,
not increasing nonresident enrollment in 2015‑16, and taking action to control costs. 
For CSU:
General Fund Increase—An ongoing increase of $119.5 million General Fund.
This funding should obviate the need for CSU to increase student tuition and fees
and can be used by the University to meet its most pressing needs.  

3.  The Governor also makes clear his intention to take on the political fight with the segments (particularly with UC) over the nature and extent of state funding.  Unlike last year's budget proposal the Governor's office makes clear the extent to which increased tuition revenue has itself been underwritten by state funds (36-37).  This has been an issue waiting to blow up for several years now.  Apparently the Governor's office has decided that now is the time.

4. The Governor is also insisting that his proposed task force on costs be instituted immediately. (40-41).  As with most of the Governor's approaches to the University the possibility that quality may cost more rather than less money is ruled out from the start and there is little evidence that he expects academic value to enter into the discussion.  Again, here is the language:

To this end, at the Governor’s request, the UC Regents are expected to form a
committee, staffed by the Administration and the UC Office of the President, to reduce
the University’s cost structure. This committee will solicit advice from a broad range of
experts, review data and develop proposals that allow the University to deliver quality
education at a lower cost and obviate the need for increased tuition or increasing
out‑of‑state enrollment. Specifically, the committee will gather information and develop
proposals to decrease University cost drivers, enhance undergraduate access, improve time‑to‑degree and degree completion, review the role of research, and explore the use of technology to enhance education. The committee’s proposals will be considered by the full UC Board of Regents. These proposals, in conjunction with the University’s sustainability plan, will inform ongoing discussions on efficiencies and reforms to improve the cost structure, student access and outcomes at the University.

It should be understood that in this context "outcomes" does not refer to learning but to degrees or certificates.

5.  Most of these proposals were predictable.  There is one oddity worth noting in the Budget. In discussing State debts and liabilities the Governor includes UC Retirement.  His proposal does not, suggest that he is putting any funds towards helping with that issue.  But in treating UC Retirement as a State debt is he conceding the point that the State has obligations towards the UC Retirement system or is he attempting to pressure UC to move even further in reducing the benefits of the UC Retirement system by lumping it with other systems more immediately subject to political control? Only time will tell.

If you are only interested in the Higher Education section of the Budget you can now find it here.


Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 3

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015
Governor Brown gave his 4th and final inaugural address today and said very little about higher education.  Instead, he focused attention on other issues: K-12 education, criminal justice, the environment, and his favorite issue of all--controlling spending.  It is certainly possible to see his lack of focus as a positive thing for the state's public colleges and universities.  His recent ideas have not been great, and relative neglect might lower the temperature to allow serious thinking on how to raise educational quality in the state's higher education institutions.

Unfortunately, what little he did say is not encouraging.  Here are his comments on higher education:
With respect to education beyond high school, California is blessed with a rich and diverse system. Its many elements serve a vast diversity of talents and interests. While excellence is their business, affordability and timely completion is their imperative. As I’ve said before, I will not make the students of California the default financiers of our colleges and universities. To meet our goals, everyone has to do their part: the state, the students and the professors. Each separate institution cannot be all things to all people, but the system in its breadth and diversity, through real cooperation among its segments, can well provide what Californians need and desire.
Several points stand out here: the displacement of "excellence" (admittedly a vacuous term) by "timely completion"; the implicit opposition to further tuition hikes coupled with a lack of real commitment to address the problem of tuition through state funding; and a belief in the inadequacy of the campus's efforts.  "To meet our goals, he said, "everyone has to do their part: the state, the students, and the professors." Since Gov. Brown has already indicated that he believes the state is doing enough and that students should not be asked to do more,  then what is left? The professors, who must be blocking timely completion and affordability by not teaching enough students and not going online enough. 

Here then is the problem with Brown's approach to higher education: in his mind the problem is not that students do not get enough time to work with faculty; it is that they get too much time. Instead of figuring out a way to fund an educational experience that enables deeper learning and higher skills he wants to speed up the process and make it more Amazon-like than it already is. As many have pointed out, higher education has been using adjuncting and massification to create teaching "efficiencies" for thirty years.  They have reduced degree productivity and quality, and cannot now suddenly increase them.

Dealing with a 1970s-model of educational efficiency will be one challenge for 2015.


Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 13

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014
I'm sure 2014 in higher ed was different from 2013, but right off I can't think of how.  The nation continued its permanent public university austerity program, encouraged flimsy hopes for ed-tech rescues, conducted long political arguments over possible 2-percent revenue increases, fantasized about self-unbundling into flexi-modularity, and proclaimed indignant doubts about the educational value of going to college at all.  So what was new? Even my biggest stayed the same, which I called the "hardening of the downward definition of public higher education through budgetary means, with no public debate."  

Cheer up, I said to myself--it's the holidays! Santa Barbara's one day of winter rain has already come and gone. Some new things did happen in 2014 higher ed, and some of them were good.

1. The College Liberation Movement.  The splashy version came from some Ivy League humanist dissidents who described elite private universities as sorting machines for those reared to rule our newly post-middle class society.   There was the "excellent sheep" debate, started by William Deresiewicz's July article, "Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League" and carried on in his book, Excellent Sheep, sustained by attacks on him by Jim Sleeper among others, and brought in quieter form to the big screen by the film Ivory Tower.   

Dr. Deresiewicz drew a sharp line between what happens at places like Yale, described as training in "the analytic and rhetorical skills that are necessary for success in business and the professions," and actually learning how to think.  However one felt about the details, the discussion put the humanistic goal of personal development at the center of the college agenda.  It cut against the naïve vocationalism that has justified corporate reach-ins to core educational functions. It clarified that colleges must do what businesses cannot do, according to their own vision and expertise.

I have my quarrels with this Ivy humanism, starting with my dislike for the overdrawn contrast between liberal and practical arts.  I think that the systematic inculcation of deep skills are next on the to-do list of public universities.  But higher ed leaders have so completely lost confidence in the special powers of higher learning that they needed every kind of explanation of why teaching is not a business.  

2. A New Deal for Faculty Governance.  When the chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced that she was pocket vetoing the appointment of Steven Salaita to a professorship that had been approved by every campus agency, she awakened the closest thing to a national faculty outcry that the country had seen in years.  Prof. Salaita remains in limbo, and governance procedures have not been fixed.  But I don't know a single faculty member who isn't now aware of the fall of the faculty, having in 2014 seen faculty be overridden in a main area of authority.   The premature MOOC contracting of  2013 showed admin to be as ready to redesign the curriculum as it is to make all financial decisions on its own. Many faculty who weren't worried about MOOC-mediated governance got worried about the suspension of hiring protocols by senior managers under donor pressure.  

Other kinds of encroachments also got faculty attention.  The newly-hatched Board of Trustees for the University of Oregon planned to write the faculty senate out of the university's new constitution, with the effect of "relegat[ing] university stakeholders to supplicants." Faculty generated an imposing counterattack.  We learned all over again that faculty bodies, once awakened, have more than enough brains at their disposal to stop any train that "has already left the station."

3. Fixing Women's Student Experience.   Even the federal government got involved with the question of what campuses are or aren't doing about sexual assault.  It was impossible to ignore the issue of inadequate protection for victims while pondering  Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz's "carry that weight" thesis project, in which she has carried a mattress with her everywhere on campus until her alleged assailant is no longer at Columbia. (Thank you Gawker for telling us that the alleged assailant is a feminist.)  The Chronicle of Higher Education had a huge spread about "alcohol's hold on campus" ( as in "A River of Booze"), and what it lacked in news value (did you know that some college students drink too much??) it made up in expressing general worry that academics are getting lost in a labyrinth of peripheral activities. Concern about the welfare of women was strong enough to prompt coverage of a study showing that college women are raped less often than non-college women of the same age, which helped embed the campus problem in a wider national context.  Rolling Stone's partial retraction of its "bombshell article" about a alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia frat house did not produce a chorus of triumphant claims that sexual assault is a phony problem.  This year, colleges en masse started to confront women's continuing--if not escalating--physical and psychological insecurity, and the national coverage was a major reason.

4. Contingent Faculty Come in from the Cold.  In early 2013 I wasn't picturing the adjunct faculty group New Faculty Majority appearing before Congress to describe academia's faculty labor problems, but it happened in November of that year, and the momentum carried into 2014.  We're finally seeing proposed legislation requiring colleges to report on their use of part time and non-tenure track instructors.  Adjunct faculty also won an case about their free speech rights and had their status considered in a student debt forgiveness proposal.  They have in general, because of the work of Prof. Maisto and many others, become a major presence in discussions of the future of higher ed.  

Writing in this space, Jennifer Ruth raised the issue of tenure-track faculty complicity in creating a disposable workforce, and named some necessary costs of reversing the trend.  2014 brought unprecedented public awareness of the overuse of contingent faculty and of the shame of their exploitation.  This has already meant increased interest in tenure-track -- non-tenure track (NTT) alliances.  This would improve NTT conditions and reduce the divisions within the faculty that have empowered administrations at faculty expense. Awareness of these possibilities is deeper than it was just a year ago.

 5. The Rise of Educational Quality.  In 2014, student debt hit the wall. The usual justifications of this destructive kludge of a funding strategy are yielding diminishing returns with students along with everyone else.  Adding to the pressure, "the debt is too damn high" was joined by another theme, "debt for what"? Students at the UC Regents meeting in November were eloquent on the subject of the shrinking educational benefits of attending UC that they traced directly to  budgetary "efficiencies" like giant lectures, mechanized grading, and near-zero rates of individual attention.  "We want classes.  We want professors," UC's student regent felt the need to explain to Governor Jerry Brown.   State funding will stay flat without a big push, and detailing the sources and costs of quality education could give state governments their first concrete--and politically charged--reason to reverse years of funding cuts.

I never tire of pointing out that the only reason for the existence of public universities is mass quality--mass access to top quality teaching and cutting-edge research--that puts regular folks on the level where they can genuinely match elites. It's not too soon for faculty to join students in putting the quality back in mass quality, while creating news kinds of quality to reflect on current conditions.  The success students had this year in holding off major politicians like Jerry Brown--and in getting cited in revenue arguments by governing boards--signaled to at least some faculty that it's time to step up. 

6.  Relinking Student Protests and Social Movements.  The biggest recent domestic news has been the protests of the non-indictment of police officers who had killed unarmed Black men, particularly in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner in New York City.  The "Hands Up Don't Shoot" and "I Can't Breathe" protests overlapped with various campus struggles about funding, tuition, debt, diversity, free speech, campus policing, the morale of students of color, and other issues.  These intersecting protests linked the public university to the postwar period of its major development, when society could imagine colleges as offering knowledge for the satisfaction of broad social needs.  In contrast to the narrower mission of serving technology industries, which now seems to many, as the middle classes stagnate, to be just one more way to enrich the rich, the classic social movements increased both the social influence of the university and the quality of its knowledge.  1950s and 1960s voters rewarded universities for this pertinence before conservative elites punished them for it.  The university's golden age and the civil rights movement had different origins but symbiotic aspirations.  This year, parallels among student and non-student movements pointed towards a better common destiny.  

One thing about 2014 was the same as previous years.  I loved the basics of the job-- the research, the teaching, and the learning with colleagues and students. My UCSB students were wonderful. They came through bouts of overpolicing, a mass murder, and ever-mounting levels of background stress; they wrote great crime stories in the detective fiction lecture I just finished, and had all sorts of ideas for educational upgrades that will continue next year.  

In the meantime, many thanks from us for reading Remaking the University this year, and warm wishes for the rest of the holidays. 

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 3

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014
 by Matthew Dennis, Professor of History and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon

After a year of negotiations, the Graduate Teaching Fellowship Federation (GTFF) at the University of Oregon went on strike last week over the University's refusal to grant two weeks of automatically granted sick leave for illness or childbirth.  Kaitlin Mulhere has a good overview at "Inside Higher Ed." UO's faculty senate passed a resolution criticizing the administration's handling of the strike, focusing in part on admin's plan to bypass TA grading   in a way that would weaken academic standards "by administrative fiat."  The UO faculty senate is now investigating this issue. The grad strike coincides with a conflict between UO faculty and its Board of Trustees (pictured above) over faculty governance. The Board is planning to change 70 policies at its meeting this week, and some major changes in the UO Constitution have been proposed by the Board chair.  These and other issues are well-covered by the UO Matters blog, where their scanner processes official documents 24 hours a day.

UO professor Matt Dennis wrote an op-ed for the Eugene newspaper that lays out the issues. His letter to his students is below, in which he makes institutional issues part of his students' overall education.

Dear Students,

The Graduate Teaching Fellows union (GTFF) has declared its intention to go out on strike next week, on Tuesday December 2. I’m writing to you now to explain how this will affect History 201. The GTFF and the UO administration’s labor representatives have been in negotiations since last November (2013) and have hit an impasse. The GFTF has made a number of reasonable demands, which the administration seems unwilling to grant. As a result the GTFs have chosen to use the only real leverage they possess—to withhold their labor. Strikes are disruptive—that’s their point. We notice the critical contribution that the strikers—our GTFs—make to our educational lives, and we hope that the administration quickly realizes that as well and settles their conflict with the GTFF. It’s impossible to predict, however, how long the strike will continue.

Some will blame the GTFF for this disruption in undergraduate teaching, but the administration bears considerable blame for its unwillingness to compromise. They have likely spent more in their prolonged negotiations with the GTFF than it would have cost to fund the GTFF’s requested two-week sick leave policy. And it will cost much more to hire replacement workers to circumvent the strike. My personal opinion is that this approach is ill advised, counterproductive, irresponsible, and needlessly expensive. Though the central administration represents itself as “the university,” in fact the heart of the university is its students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and staff—most of whom have not had any say in the negotiations, even though we have the most at stake.

The administration seems willing to compromise the academic integrity of the university in the interest of “continuity.” I am not. It has recommended a number of “options” to work around the strike, including hiring others to grade your work, even suggesting advanced undergraduates, canceling exams and other assignments, transforming exams into multiple choice tests, or simply grading students on the work already performed. In History 201 this would entail abandoning the syllabus (my contract with you), and awarding final grades based on some 55 percent of the graded work completed so far. Because this course is designed to reach a large number of students—over 100—and because my other responsibilities already demand 100 percent of my time, I am not able to grade your work myself. But, on professional and moral grounds, I would not do so in any case. Your GTFs have done a terrific job, worked with you closely, and know you and are in a position to judiciously evaluate your performance. Under present circumstances I cannot do as well--as well as you deserve. Nor will I undermine their efforts to get a just contract. I will not work as a strikebreaker or “scab.”

Where does that leave us in History 201? The exam you took last Tuesday, November 25 (20 percent of your grade) is not yet graded, but it should be evaluated, and your grade on it should be counted in the calculation of your final grade. As should your final exam. Next
week, during the strike, I will deliver my final two lectures in the course as scheduled. The
discussion section meetings taught normally by GTFs, scheduled for week 10, will be
cancelled. The final exam (25 percent of your grade) will occur as scheduled on Tuesday,
December 9 at 8:00 a.m. I will proctor the exam myself and collect your examination books,
but the exams will remain ungraded until the strike is settled and the GTFs are able to grade them. Thus, if the strike extends into finals week or beyond, you will not receive a grade in History 201. Under these circumstances, with so much of your work ungraded, I am unable to file any grades ethically, responsibly, or fairly.

It’s possible that a representative of the administration might decide that filing grades—even indiscriminate ones—is more important than insuring the integrity and justness of such grades. Communications from the administration have suggested that in some cases it might usurp the role of “instructor of record” and file grades themselves. Such a move would be arbitrary and capricious, and a fundamental violation of academic freedom, but it could occur nonetheless. I certainly hope that this does not happen, and that the strike is quickly settled, that the administration treats you equitably and with the respect you merit, and that this mishandling of negotiations with the GTFFs doesn’t damage the integrity and reputation of the University of Oregon we have worked so hard to sustain.

You may be concerned about how all this will affect your academic progress or financial aid. I am empathetic. These are important administrative matters, requiring administrative fixes in these extraordinary circumstances. I encourage you to contact the administration, which should be able to find workable administrative solutions that do not compromise the
academic integrity of the university. It’s their responsibility—and it’s in their interest as well as yours—to ensure your ongoing eligibility for financial aid.

I will see you all next week and answer any questions you have then. I hope in the meantime that you have a nice Thanksgiving holiday and that somehow the strike is averted.

best wishes,

Matthew Dennis,
Professor of History and Environmental Studies
History 201

***
Chris here: this is the strike resolution letter, posted at UO Matters

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 8

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
The November UC Regents meeting featured a battle of the paradigms between administrative and student accounts of student finances. 

UC Office of the President (UCOP) officials, led by Executive Vice President Nathan Brostrom, sustained their longstanding claim that generous UC financial aid protects all low-income and most middle-income students from tuition costs. The Berkeley campus issued a statement citing the main talking point:
California students from families with annual incomes under $80,000 will continue to have tuition and fees fully covered by financial aid, and the vast majority of California students from families earning less than $150,000 a year will see no increase.
Upping the volume on this message, the immediate past chancellor of UC Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau, claimed that this high financial aid depends on high tuition, so that "frozen tuition means ever-increasing debt for low-income students."

While senior managers focused on tuition, students focused on their total cost of attendance. This is what they have to pay overall while they are in school.  Grants can cover most or all of their tuition, and yet rent, food, transportation, health insurance, etc. run up the overall bill for attending UC.   Regular folks watching the livestream might wonder why the officials were so soothing while the students were so distraught.  But the officials and the students were talking about two different things.


(1)

Here’s a figure from a Legislative Analyst’s Office report that visualizes the experience gap in the regents’s boardroom.



For this student, from a family at around the median income, the University, federal and state programs cover all tuition and some expenses.  And in spite of fairly expensive aid, she is left that large blank space in the left-hand bar: nearly $10,000 to pay on her own. (Her total costs are lowballed here--as we'll see, they are closer to $35,000 at the coastal campuses).   

A bit of terminology will help:

"Student Responsibility" in the chart can also be called Self-Help Expectation, or Unmet Need, defined in a basic way as follows

Cost of Attendance (COA) minus Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need

FInancial Need minus FInancial Aid Awarded = Unmet Need

The first thing to note is that a university can say to a student, "we cover your full tuition" and still leave her scrambling to fund a gap in her grants, here of between $9000 and $10,000 per year. She will have to fill this gap either with loans or work.

Second, there is an ambiguity in the terminology. You might assume "Financial Aid Award" means grants.  But in fact university financial aid offices "award" loans as well.  They can, in this way, reduce a student's Unmet Need to zero, but only by inducing the student to borrow and/or take on additional work.  They can also include parental borrowing in the closing of Unmet Need.

I will follow what I believe is UC practice is calling the mixture of loans and work the student's Self-Help Expectation.  This seems like a more rigorous definition of financial need that is unmet by grants, but this is apparently not how UC uses the term so I will avoid it. 

Next, where does the financial aid system expect her to get this money?

I've spent quite a bit of time with financial aid analyses, but like most UC faculty have not done concrete aid calculations for particular students.  I got some help from an employee of UCSB's financial aid office, who was nice enough to send me some examples and comments. This person created the examples below without disclosing the campus's financial aid "parameters," which are apparently confidential. All of these examples presume a family of 4 with one student in college and no assets, savings, or non-salary income. It also assumes the student does not have outside scholarships.


(2)

Here is the cost of attendance (COA) for UCSB.



Tuition is about one-third of total costs, which are close to $35,000 a year.  A student can save about $4000 by moving off-campus, putting off-campus COA at $31,000.  I will stick with the on-campus first-year student: how does she cover these costs?

Example 1: Total Family Income = $35,000.
Expected Family Contribution = $0

This is a low-income student.  Her financial aid award letter (assuming on-campus housing) will break down like this:

$12,192    Cal Grant  
$  5,730    Pell Grant
$  7,736    UCSB Grant
$  3,500     Subsidized loan
$  2,000     Unsubsidized loan
$  1,700     Perkins loan
$  2,000    Work study

The student's COA is $34,858. Her EFC is $0, so her Financial Need is also $34,858.  Her grant total is $25,658.  She is left with a Self-Help Expectation of $9200.  She can supply $2000 of that with a work-study job. She needs still to come up with $7200 on top of that. 

This award letter has her borrowing the entire $7200 from three sources. Four years of this borrowing gets her a debt of $28,800. (In practice, annual loan offerings vary and generally increase each year, so $7200+ $6500+ $7500 +$7500 yields $28,700 after four years.)  If she took a second job to avoid taking on half of the loan--by earning $3600 per year--and she worked two eight hour days per week at $10 / hr take-home pay, she would need to work 24 weeks a year while graduating with $14,400 in loans.  

If you look at the charts of both UC Berkeley borrowing and national borrowing in my post "Free Speech and a Free UC," you can see that this is a conservative estimate. The average debt burden for a student in this income range is about $3000 higher than this amount.

Example 2: Total Family Income = $70,000
Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = $7820

$12,192    Cal Grant  
$  5,730    Pell Grant
$  5,646    UCSB Grant
$ 3,500     Subsidized loan
$ 2,000     Unsubsidized loan
$ 1,700     Perkins loan
$  2,000    Work study
$11,520    Parent PLUS Loan

This student is no longer likely to receive a Pell but can still get a Cal Grant (which covers full tuition).  His COA is the same as the first student's, $34,858.  His family is supposed to kick in an EFC of $7820, so his Financial Need is $27,038 per year. His grant total is $17,838.   He has a Self-Help Expectation of $9200. Interestingly, this is the same expectation as low-income Student 1's. Student 2 is not eligible for work study.  His parents are eligible for PLUS loans, however, and together with his $5500 in loan eligibility, this financial aid award letter has the student and his family borrowing to cover both the EFC and his Unmet Need.  

Assuming his loan amounts increase and he accepts the maximum in each case, the total borrowing for Student 2 is $5500 + $6500 + $7500 + $7500.  Four years of that will leave the student with $27,000 in debt for a bachelor's degree.  He could avoid $6800 in loan debt by working the same 16 hour weeks during most of the school year, or avoid all of it with many more hours of summer work. He could also avoid $4000 in expenses each year by living off-campus.  But if he wants to spend work hours on studying, as critiques of reduced student study time like Academically Adrift are asking students to do (my LARB review offers background on this issue), he and his family together will have borrowed $27,000 + $46,080 for a joint total of $73,080 for his bachelor's degree.

Example 3: Total Family Income = $100,000
Expected Family Contribution = $19,760

$12,192    Cal Grant  
$  5,730    Pell Grant
$  5,898    UCSB Grant
$ 3,500     Subsidized loan
$ 2,000     Unsubsidized loan
$ 1,700     Perkins loan
$  2,000    Work study
$23,460   Parent PLUS Loan

This student's family income is more than 150% of median family income in California. She has a kind of "middle class scholarship" in the form of the UCSB grant. It runs slightly higher than that for the student with $70,000 in family income.  But she is eligible neither for the Pell nor the Cal Grant.  Her family EFC is $19,760, so she has a Financial Need of $15,098 per year.  Subtracting her Financial Aid Awarded ($5,898) from her Financial Need yields her a Self-Help Expectation of . . . $9200.  

As with Student 2, she can cover $5500 of that with her two loans, and cover the remaining $3700 with the balance of her parents' PLUS loan ($23,460 minus their EFC of $19,760 is exactly $3700).  Or her parents could take out a smaller loan and she could cover the balance by working a bit more than Student 1's 16 hours a week for 24 weeks a year.  

My source observes,
To make up a third of her need  [without borrowing], a student would need about 20 hours a week or more throughout the school year and that leaves very minimal time for academics and could also be a factor as to why students do not become involved in organizations or research on campus.  That in turn could affect their attendance in grad school or programs like EAP. It then becomes a question of "how much can I do in one day," and what gets left out is when a student has to work it almost always ends up affecting their educational goals. 
Whatever she decides, Student 3 will  graduate with $22,000 in loans after four years. Her parents will owe $93,840 on their PLUS loans, plus interest. 


(3)

This is how the situation appears to me:

The student's Self-Help Expectation is not an accident of an insufficient financial aid budget. It is built into all the calculations.  The parameters appear to be structured to generate this gap of $9200 for all students, including poor students.  While private colleges regularly "gap" at least their least desirable admits, say the bottom quarter, UC appears to gap all of its students. My source wrote, "I don't know the politics of the policies behind it. I just know financial aid offices are always leaving that 'gap' to be covered in loans or work."

Covering a Cost of Attendance that assumes a $9200 Self-Help Expectation requires plenty of work, or debt, or both.   That is true of low income students, as the aggregate data confirms. In other words, a full tuition scholarship is readily compatible with $15,000 in graduation debt. The "middle class scholarship," as implemented by a campus-based grant, produces $22,000 in debt in these calculations. 


Parents are taking on new levels of debt for their children.  A $100,000 family income might suggest resources to support college, and the PLUS loans promise to soak all of that up. Student 3's parents take on close to 100 percent of their annual income in loans for one child's public university B.A. degree.  A special program like UC Berkeley's Middle Class Access Plan (MCAP) would reduce Student 3's parents' debt by reducing the EFC from about 20 percent of annual income in that case to a maximum of 15 percent. That would bring their debt down to $77,840.  It would not affect the debt of the other two students.

Parental debt doesn't seem to be reducing student debt, but to be covering tuition increases for non-poor students. 

The portion of tuition increases not funded by student or parent debt is funded by the state or federal governments. Here's a figure that shows one reason why the state is so angry with UCOP.


Fifteen years of tuition increases has increased Cal Grant outlays to UC by close to a factor of 8.This encourages the state to reduce its general fund outlays for UC operations by the amount that it has to increase Cal Grant outlays. Gov. Brown has in fact already told the regents that Sacramento is putting money into student scholarships instead of making "a direct investment in the university."   (For further reading, see Katy Murphy's good overview of the issue). 

Health insurance costs seem very high for this generally young population. So does on-campus housing, which costs $4000 a year more than housing furnished by famously price-gouging Isla Vista landlords (a different cost estimate for off-campus housing is here). Student costs may be artificially increased if campuses are using on-campus housing as a profit center to generate cross-subsidies for other activities.

In short, in the clash between official reassurances and student anguish about tuition hikes, the students are right.  Covering Cost of Attendance has work, stress, and debt built into it. Putting the point more harshly, the high tuition / high financial aid system functions is a debt engine.  Frozen tuition means "ever-increasing debt," in Prof. Birgeneau's terms.  But so does increased tuition.  The current financial aid system is structured to translate both higher tuition and higher financial "aid" into higher debt.

Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 41

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Finally it wasn't about the money today but about the decline in quality.  And it was the students who explained the core issue as getting affordable quality in their education.   

Left: Felicia Garcia, Julian Mariano, and Kimmy Tran at UC Davis. Photo credit: Paul Kitagaki, Jr, AP).

One such student was Melvin Singh, AS VP for External Affairs at UCSB, who said students struggle to get into classes, to meet with TAs, to get academic help.  His counterpart at Berkeley, Caitlin Quinn, told KCRW's Warren Olney that money worries are "a huge factor in how you do in school" (13').  She said,
Students don't see the benefit of so many administrative positions.  At UC Berkeley it seems like there's a new vice-chancellor of something-or-other every week. . . . I think students are fed up with what they see as administrative bloat. They aren't seeing this supposed quality education. I've been here for three years and ever since I've been here students have been struggling to see the value of a UC education. We're in huge classes. I've been in classes as big as 800 people. I don't think there's more than one or two professors who know me by name. (16'00" - 16'28'')
The regents seemed to hear the quality message loud and clear.  The problem is that almost no one thinks UC would direct new state money straight to education, as opposed to another new business scheme.  When the Regents' Committee on Long-Range Planning voted 7-2 to forward the 5-year, 5 percent annual tuition hike proposal to the full Board of Regents, they faced stone opposition from the elected officials and the students in the room.

The only good outcome in the renewed UC Tuition Wars will be a state buyout of the planned tuition increase (Stability Plan here). That would mean the planned 4 percent increase in state funding plus the proposed 5 percent in tuition.  This works out roughly to a 9 percent increase in state funding (figures here), and another year of frozen tuition.  But Gov. Jerry Brown made pretty clear that he won't go for both. And his Deputy Director of Finance, D.J. Palmer, confirmed that the tuition hike could void the 4 percent state hike, leaving a net 1 percent increase in UC revenues for next year.

This evening, UCOP's EVP for Business Operations Nathan Brostrom said that discussions will continue.  Earlier in the day, the Speaker Toni Atkins proposed a version of a tuition buyout with a lower state increase and many conditions.  When Gov. Jerry Brown announced in committee that he would vote against the tuition hike, he also requested a selected committee to consider a five-point plan for fixing UC, which involve three-year degrees, a "wide range of online courses enrolling large numbers of students far beyond the capacity of any seat-based classroom," and program consolidation among the campuses. In effect, Gov. Brown restarted parts of the UC Commission on the Future, and negotiations on those issue would go on for years.

Then the non-gov regents started firing back.  I have never heard them so frustrated and openly disgusted with the state.  When Regent-designate Pérez called the tuition hike proposal a kind of hostage-taking of students, he produced remarkable denunciations of state policy from Regent Reiss and of leadership defaults from student Regent Saifuddin.  My storify record is here--it's been the best Regents TV in quite some time, and is getting closer to the real issue of how public universities under incessant austerity are supposed to support their historic mission of mass quality.

So: why a 9 percent increase? Because it's closer to what UC actually needs to close its structural deficit. UCOP's estimates have varied and the situation continues to change, but the clearest quantification of the remedy was in a March 2011 budget presentation in which UCOP estimated it needed many years of 12.4 percent per year from the state just to close the deficit that had been created by the massive Schwarzenegger-Brown cuts (Display 46).  Here's the graphic, measuring impact on the deficit not the amount of increase.



This suggests a need for 16 percent annual increases when tuition and state funds are combined. Alternative C is more or less the Gov. Brown plan -- 4 percent state increases with frozen tuition.  The situation today, three and a half years later, has gotten worse.    On KQED's Forum, Mr. Palmer, agreed that the governor's plan in effect restored about half of the recession's billion dollar cut over a four year period. 9 percent is better than 1, 4, or 5 percent, but it still isn't enough for solvency, much less "greatness."

UC constituents have unfortunately failed to endorse a funding reboot of the needed size. Academic Senate chair Mary Gilly signed on to the tuition hikes but not to a full restoration, and as far as I can tell neither the Associated Students nor various unions are calling for full  state funding either.  

A major exception is the UC Council of Faculty Associations (CUCFA), which is recommending a complete reset of UC and CSU funding to 2000-01 levels.  This would put state funding and tuition back to trend ($4,717 for UC). Professor James Vernon, the co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, made the case in the Sacramento Bee, which is based on a straightforward calculation.  One of the authors of the calculation, UCSF professor of medicine Stanton Glantz, appeared at the regents' meeting to call for the reset. He declared, "You should not be arguing how much to raise tuition, but how to mobilize the public support to restore the California Master plan of low cost high quality higher education for all."


The reset is cheap-- $50 a year for the median taxpayer, or $384.30 extra for someone making between $100,000 and $150,000 and whose child will be borrowing fifteen times that figure each year they are at UC.  Given their desperate money worries, why wouldn't UCOP endorse a version of the reset? Why wouldn't everybody else at UC?  All the energy is going into blocking tuition hikes rather than into setting specific funding goals for Sacramento.

Some of the problem is a kind collective fatigue, if not depression.  UC leaders don't think the reset is politically realistic, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  On the other hand, few people think the governor, the legislature, UCOP, the regents, or the public are ever going to make things right.  Most of us who work at  UC, CSU and the CCC have become unconsciously resigned to doing crisis management for the rest of our lives in semi-distraction from our higher-level work.   Some of the problem is that the campuses don't like or trust UCOP any more than Sacramento does.  UCOP has become a kind of "third force," as UCI professor Rei Terada put it at Reclaim UC.  It didn't help itself with what many people, from student leaders to the Lt. Governor of the state, described as a secretive process. During a particularly good four-way discussion on KQED's Forum earlier this week, Mr. Palmer and Associated Students president Kevin Sabo shared identical complaints about UCOP's failure to develop the tuition proposals in partnership with them (Mr. Sabo at 18'; Mr. Palmer at 26').  Mr. Palmer said UC had failed to comply with the provisions of AB 970, which requires public notice and consolation around tuition increases.  UCOP is apparently resisting the calculation of undergraduate degree costs as required by AB 94, whose deadline was missed.  Throw in general resentment about executive compensation and recent increases of over 20 percent in some chancellors' salaries, and everyone has a reason to cut off their UCOP nose to spite their budgetary face.   

Although the budgetary discussion went nowhere, everyone seems now to see how serious the basic threat has become.  Under the epic title "A Battle for UC's Soul," the LA Times editorial board identified the long-term stakes for UC and other public research universities:
At issue is whether the 10-campus system will continue to rank among the nation's premier research universities, drawing top students and the best professors from throughout the world, or whether it will slowly shrink its ambitions, becoming a more utilitarian institution that concentrates narrowly on moving students to their bachelor's degrees and into the workforce quickly and efficiently.    
What state leaders should be figuring out is not how to diminish UC's role, but how to preserve UC as a national example of great public higher education.
That is not what state leaders are doing.  Regent-designate Oakley spoke at a recent forum about PPIC's ongoing concerns about workforce shortages, and the whole event suggested the focus of the state's establishment to be workforce training.  Lt. Gov. Newsom called for a fuller integration of the three segments in a way that would facilitate this, and Gov. Brown's proposals aim at the same thing.  Five years of five-percent tuition increases will merely make UC a more expensive pipeline segment.   The main effect of the new tuition wars will more shrinking not so much of ambition, which is obviously alive and well in UC students, but of the financial means of achieving them.

We're in year six of the official mediocrity threat, so it's not to soon for this to get everyone's undivided attention.  

We did get confirmation today on at least two of the preconditions for any real movement that Michael identified last week. One is the full re-engagement of the faculty, tenure track and non-tenure track, in defining and explaining the academic functions of the university.   What does research do for undergraduates? Why do graduate students do? What is research? Why does it cost so much? Why, really, do we need it? What, concretely, are the activities involved in being a "premier research university." UCOP and the regents can't answer these kinds of questions. But if faculty don't answer them now, the funding situation will never change, and the workforce mission will take over.

Second, UCOP will need to comply with AB 94, and account for the costs of undergraduate teaching, graduate education, various kinds of research, and administration. EVP Brostrom excused the delay again tonight, but Sacramento obviously isn't going to budge unless it gets real answers on costs that most political leaders believe are still way too high.  

Tearing off the band-aids wasn't pleasant, but at least now everyone sees the wounds.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 8