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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: 3

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 1

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
As you have no doubt seen, UC and Sacramento have already begun the public relations war over UCOP's proposal to hike tuition up to 5% a year over the next 5 years.  President Napolitano and Chair Varner took to the appropriately named "Soapbox" section of the Sacramento Bee to try to justify their plan.  If they hoped to win over the Governor, Sacramento, or students, their efforts clearly failed.  As both the LAT and the Sacramento Bee are reporting, opposition is already intense and the Governor's office is suggesting that the State may lower proposed funding increases if UC increases tuition.  The LAT has more on the long debate ahead.

First off let's admit that there is a problem.  UC's costs are going up and recent small increases in state funding neither make up for previous deep cuts nor keep pace with the costs of supporting undergraduate education or sustaining graduate training and research infrastructure. State General Fund funding in 2014-15 ($2,990,671,000) (in nominal dollars) will still be lower than it was in 2007-08 ($3,273,917,000).  This despite an increase of nearly 20,000 state residents on the general campuses.  For too long time the amount of money the state contributes per student has been in decline.

Not only has state funding per student declined over time but it has done so in unpredictable ways. Consequently, tuition has not only increased tremendously but has done so in a crazy fashion.  Take the following chart that you can find at UCOP:

Now it should be clear that this is not an acceptable situation.  The question is how to get out of it.

Jerry Brown argues that 4% increases combined with some cuts and the magic of online classes is enough. But Brown's support for online is symptomatic of a fundamental mistake: the notion that the rising costs relate primarily to undergraduate instruction.  Between increased class sizes and greater use of contingent faculty UC has been lowering the cost of undergraduate education for years. In fact, upgrades to technology have increased costs, as has expansion of student services that help the full range of students complete their degrees (something dear to the heart of Brown's accountability regime).  But these costs will not be lowered by online education which, if done well, will increase costs at least in the short run. Brown's position seems to be simply a continuation of his life-long mantra of austerity for its own sake.

UCOP wants to take the 4% from the state and then add a 5% tuition hike onto students, while also maintaining the current high level of non-resident students (or even increasing them).  It is important to recognize the assumption that state increases will continue: although most of the discussion and argument has been about the 5% figure UCOP's proposal actually leaves open the possibility of up to a 9% tuition increase if the Governor follows through on his insistence that he will only allow General Fund increases if tuition remains frozen. I am not sure if UCOP simply fumbled the roll-out (so that now the university will look even worse if it tries to increase tuition by more than 5%) or if it was trying to pin down the state.  But whatever the explanation, the possibility of further overburdening students is real.

Neither strategy makes long term sense for the State or the University or especially the University's students. Let me start with the University's because that is simpler.

The University has been committed for many years to a high tuition/somewhat higher aid model. Although the credit agencies prefer to have universities rely on tuition as opposed to state funding, the main argument for the model goes something like this: given the existence of return to aid for in-state resident tuition (but not NRT) it only serves the wealthier students to hold tuition down because financial aid pays the tuition of lower income students. What this argument overlooks is that the rise in tuition means that other funds (like Pell grants) that might have been used to cover non-tuition expenses will be diverted into tuition and that students will end up working longer hours and therefore taking more time to degree.   (Look for instance at "Sonja's" case here.)  I don't know of anyone who has has a way to calculate the number of potential low-income students who were discouraged from applying because of rising tuition and prices, but I doubt it is zero (although UC's figures suggest that the percentage of low income students did not decline in the years leading up to 2012-13 which is the last year that I could find figures for).  And UC acknowledges that the amount of debt taken on by students has risen in recent years. (Figures 1-15 and 1-25)  Chris has laid out the case against this model in this post.

Not only is UC's strategy bad for students but it is bad for the University.  Although the Governor likes to point out that UC's rise in tuition has more than compensated for the gross losses in state funding that overlooks the reality of the way that financial aid works.  As Bob Samuels points out in his own dissection of the UC tuition proposal, the net revenue from tuition is still below that provided by the State because 1/3 of in-state tuition goes to return-to-aid.  In fact, the latest proposal only intensifies the long-standing error on the part of UCOP of insisting that they could keep securing access and quality through the high tuition/somewhat high aid model (one of a series of errors Bob identifies in his post). UC has, in effect, allowed the Governor and the LAO to begin treating student tuition as public funding.  Unless UC is willing to turn its back on access and its public mission and only allow the well-off to attend the University it simply will be unable fund its way out of this situation on the backs of students and their families.  Put bluntly, the present strategy does not offer a way for UC to retain its proclaimed commitments to quality, affordability, and access.

Now I am not naive.  As I suggested at the top of the post, the Governor is not a friendly audience for requests for increased funding.  One of the uncertainties introduced by UCOP's tuition proposal  is whether the Governor will insist on reducing or eliminating proposed state funding increases in response.  If this happens either UC will receive little if any financial benefit from the added tuition unless it places even greater burdens upon students.

But the Governor's position makes no more sense than does the University's.  The problem lies in his indifference to, or ignorance of, the effects of his austerity policies.  To take only the most immediate example, the Governor placed his political capital and fundraising skills to pass his rainy day fund. Unfortunately for too many Californians the storm is still ongoing.  As Dan Mitchell has pointed out the latest figures for tax revenue while higher than the Governor predicted remain highly dependent on capital gains revenues; sales taxes--a better indicator of how the majority of the state's citizens are faring economically--remain low.  His obsessive parsimoniousness is exactly the wrong policy at the present time.

But there is a longer-term problem here.  The Governor insists that the state needs a larger rainy day fund and to hold back on counter-cyclical investments because of the volatility of tax revenue.  But the volatility of tax revenues is deepened by austerity because austerity deepens inequality and inequality exacerbates the volatility of revenues.  Although the overall effective tax structure of California is regressive the volatility problem exists because of the state's dependence on capital gains taxes.  The only long-term sustainable way to move away from that dependence is to create new ways to increase the income and opportunity for the mass of the state's population.  Cutting back state investment does the exact opposite; it insures that the state will become even more unequal and dependent on capital gains income that bears a tenuous relation with the state of the real productive economy.

One of the prime mechanisms for creating mass income, opportunity, and what used to be known as public happiness has been public education.  In the present state of society that needs to include greater--not lesser--access to higher education through the Community Colleges, CSU, and UC.

But just as it is reasonable to argue to Sacramento that it is in California's interest to reinvest in higher education to be able to break with the high tuition/somewhat high aid model it is also reasonable for Sacramento and the California public to insist that this not be done along the business as usual model proposed by UCOP.  Instead, something deeper is needed.

First, if UC wants to make a stronger case for increased state funding UC needs to stop insisting that even if it keeps raising tuition students will be fine. Instead, they should enter into negotiations by taking the position that what is needed is to increase state funding so that student tuition can be rolled back.  UCOP cannot take the "we need more money trust us" position that it has assumed in the past.

Second, UC needs to become more transparent in its budgets.  As Charlie Schwartz has been arguing for decades the budgetary categories UC uses (e.g. instructional costs; student services) are simply too vague.  UC's core activities are instruction and research but the University has never made a good enough case for the importance of State support for research nor have we done a good enough job in explaining why being at a research university is good for students.  UC also needs to genuinely confront managerial over-expansion.  UCOP likes to dismiss criticism by pointing to the relatively small amount of money that goes to senior management salaries.  But that is a red herring: the real issue is that senior managers bring in their wake ever increasing administrative staffs which generate their own tasks and costs.  It is the entire management ideology and structure that needs to be rethought.  

Third, it is time to have a serious discussion of UCOP role and structure in the contemporary moment.  I am not one to call for the elimination of UCOP.  I think that there are still important system-wide functions that it performs.  But we have to recognize that the question of why it performs the functions it does and at such cost is something that needs to be rethought.  Just to give you a sense of scale, the budget for UCOP in 2013-14 was about $587M.  The budget in the same year for the Santa Cruz campus was $633.2M.  Now granted, some of the UCOP budget is due to system-wide programs that happen to be sheltered under UCOP (especially agricultural programs). But do we really think that the Office of the President should have a budget nearly as large as an entire UC Campus?

Finally, as part of a larger public discussion of a new Master Plan for Higher Education UC needs to move beyond the missed opportunity of the UC Commission on the Future.  It is time to recognize that that effort was misconceived and wrongly organized.  Under the leadership of President Yudof, Regent Gould, Senate Chair Croughan, and Dean Edley, UC pursued the wrong effort with the wrong goals: top down, administratively driven, obsessed with online education and far removed from campus life.  As part of any new Master Plan UC needs to engage in a different sort of self-scrutiny: centered on faculty, staff, and the campuses; geared to re-energizing the teaching and research functions of the University, willing to mark out new ways to serve the public in realms far beyond the commodification fetish manifested in UC Ventures or Westwood Tech Transfer.

To regain this sort of public investment and to renew UC's public mission is, to be sure, a long-term endeavor and one without guarantees.  I think that by challenging the logic of continual cuts, President Napolitano has taken a step beyond the Eeyore like passivity of the previous administration. But more needs to be done to decide what the money is for.  If faculty want to regain their role in governing the university we need to take up the challenge in alliance with parents, staff, and students. And to do that we may need to invent new forms of organization and communication.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 5

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014
What's coming are price hikes--big ones in UC Care.  (In contrast, the negative number at left is the subpar status of UC's benefits relative to market). That's the unloved UC self-insurance plan that was implemented last year over a hue-and-cry about its incomplete and inferior coverage.  On Tuesday, after voting in the midterm election, I went to the Santa Barbara Senate's forum on changes this year (prices here), which revealed the obstacles to improvements going forward--both at the system level and at UCSB.  Here I'll discuss UC and UCSB together.

The issue comes with a history that began last fall, with the gradual unveiling of new UC health care plans and of their various deficiencies.  The specific UCSB issue was the absence of the Tier 1 version of UC Care in the Santa Barbara area, which made medical costs higher for UCSB employees than for their peers on other campuses. After UCOP officials endured a large, angry meeting on the Santa Barbara campus, a patch was arranged.  Sansum Clinic would offer Tier 1 services for a year, with a possible continuation. But Cottage Hospital, the best and only full-service hospital in the Santa Barbara area, would be available exclusively under Tier-2 payment conditions for UC Care (and under normal HMO conditions for HealthNet clients).  Tier-2 has much higher payments for patients, but underlying cost inequities and access problems were not resolved.

(All our posts and links on the topic are listed here; you can find, for example, my initial review of UC Care changes and its tier system; coverage of UCOP's response; Michael's perspective from a medical campus; a Berkeley breakdown of UC Care's reduced services and increased costs; my cost estimate for a UCSB tier-1 fix (at the bottom); and a Spring 2014 summary of people's problems as they tried to use the new system.   We are still providing a forum for experiences at Share Your UC Care Story.)

On the eve of last Tuesday's Senate forum, the UCSB Faculty Association posted a statement on UC Care that itemized these ongoing inequities and problems. It called for Chancellor Henry Yang to appoint a committee empowered to meet with UCOP officials, including President Napolitano, in order to fix the health care plans. The goal would be for "Central Coast employees of UCSB [to] have access to quality health care on a basis that is not inferior to that at other UC campuses."  UCSB FA president Nelson Lichtenstein and other FA members came to the Senate meeting with copies of the letter, and repeated the call.

What are the chances of a real fix?  As far as UCOP is concerned, there is nothing to fix.  I say this because they declined Senate divisional chair Kum-Kum Bhavnani's invitation to send officials to speak with UCSB Senate members at the meeting, and because of a UC-wide survey their Human Resources department published in mid-October under the headline, "UC Faculty, Staff, and Retirees Satisfied with Current Medical Plan Offerings." Chair  Bhavnani presented the major findings.  Respondents saying they were satisfied or very satisfied with their plan, their new plan, their ability to see a primary care physician, or their ability to see a specialist, were all in the mid-70s out of a hundred.  For example, "77 percent of those enrolling in a new plan said they were satisfied with the new network."  Although there were early reports of prescription drug problems, satisfaction rates there hit 90 percent (slide 20).

Broken down by campus, Berkeley and Los Angeles have 76 percent and 75 percent satisfaction rates. The formerly unhappy Riverside comes it at 76 percent satisfied, above the medical campuses Davis at 74 percent and Irvine at 71 percent.  The only real holdout is Santa Cruz at 54 percent.  Santa Barbara, the least well-served, is in between, at 67% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they are satisfied with their plan.  The absence of a large dissatisfied minority may have enabled the price hikes I'll get to in a minute. In any case, the rollout appears in the survey as a major triumph.

The major exception to this pattern across the system was UC Care.  There, the percentage who agree/strongly agree that they are satisfied with their plan falls to 46 percent (slide 10).   UC Care is off the charts in dissatisfaction with access to correct information about the plan (slide 22).  In other areas UC Care is comparable, but it's obvious even in this survey that major work still needs to be done.

An implied question at the forum was whether UCOP is going to set systemwide health care policy on the basis of surveys like this.  My guess is yes, though that's a bad idea, partly because of the survey and partly because of the management theory behind it.  First, the survey has a fairly low response rate (26 percent), in part reflecting the fact that it was administered during a two-week window that began right at the end of the academic year for eight of the ten UC campuses.  Secondly, the health care system's biggest problems occurred at sites that are too small a percentage of the whole to budge the totals (the medical centers and national laboratories were included).  

Perhaps most seriously, the survey doesn't distinguish among levels of use, which artificially increases satisfaction rates.  I pay for UC Care but didn't use it once during my first year, so would have no reason to express dissatisfaction with UC Care.   The meaningful satisfaction figure is the share of active users of the plan, ideally broken down by level of use. Those numbers, if they exist, were not published.

The poor management theory behind surveys is that you can manage by majority opinion and set the minority aside.  That marginalizes individual experience, and in health care it is a way of favoring the healthier share of the population over the sick.  This strategy produced such serious cost and public health problems with the existing private health care system in the US that the Affordable Care Act, for all its public subsidizes for private providers, now regulates it.  The UC system doesn't reject sick employees, and yet this survey, normally construed, encourages UCOP to treat the dissatisfied as outliers who can be safely ignored.  Those outliers include the entirety of the UCSB workforce, who constitute about 3 percent of the system's healthcare enrollment.

Management by survey may have encouraged UCOP to end last year's policy of holding down employee contributions.  You'll remember that UC Care's premium, defined as lower than that of Anthem/Blue Cross, was a leading selling point.  I did some quick calculations before the meeting and discovered that my UC Care premiums will be rising by over 17 percent.  This is of course a systemwide price. Lower income employees will see a rise of about 20 percent.  In all brackets, UC Care prices rose from 2 to over 3 times the rate of HealthNet and other preexisting commercial plans.   Chair Bhavnani presented a spread sheet that displayed cost increases for all plans at all income brackets, and they are disturbing.  Will they be repeated for 2016 and again for 2017 and for the years after that? No one from UCOP was there to answer this or any other health care question.

I asked Chair Bhavnani about UCOP's justification for UC Care price hikes that are more than double projected cost increases for the medical sector as a whole. Several people chimed in, and the leading explanations were that the UC medical centers who provide UC Care's service (a) had new costs that they had to roll forward into this year;  (b) are actually not very efficient at providing primary care; and (c) have growing deficits that need covering in part from UC Care revenue streams.  

Of course last year UC proclaimed the readiness and superior efficiency of UC's medical centers, which were there to keep costs down. In addition, UCOP presented UC Care as a health benefit to UC's employees rather than as a way of creating a captive customer base for UC hospitals.   Was the point really to pull in tens of thousands of new customers and their ever-higher premiums for a medical enterprise of dubious solvency?  Nobody in the room wanted to contemplate the extent to which UC employees, faculty included, are regarded as little more than revenue sources by a UCOP that has not been candid about the fiscal problems facing one set of UC "businesses." Mid-career and younger faculty focused on the economic straightjacket facing them, and the difficulty they will have paying more (for less).

On the UCSB Tier-1 issue, Samsum will participate for 2015, but the agreement ends that year and there is nothing in place to extend it.  Cottage Hospital will remain outside of UC Care Tier 1.  An advisor to the chancellor said he doesn't think UCOP is actively negotiating with anyone in Santa Barbara, and that he couldn't get a straight answer out of either side about where the talks are.

Chair Bhavnani asked for a sense of the meeting--what did we want to see happen now? I asked that she post the price hike spread sheets on the Senate web site.  (As of this writing, this has not happened.) I expressed confusion about whether the Senate wanted to mobilize faculty on this issue, or not.  I also asked why we don't ask for premium reductions for UCSB's subprime version of UC Care.  Someone else replied she didn't want to pay less for Tier 2 UC Care--she wanted Tier 1.  A third person suggested a lawsuit, and I agreed. It's hard to think of what else would get UCOP to care enough to spend the money it would take to have the unified system we're supposed to have under standard insurance risk pooling principles.

The FA's Prof. Lichtenstein suggested that if there's enough pressure to get UCOP to cover UCSB with Tier 1 UC Care at Cottage, they'll realize UC Care was a bad financial idea and scrap it.  We could go back to providers that only raise rates 6.8 percent a year rather than 17 to 20. 

But again, where will the pressure come from? As physics professor Harry Nelson pointed out, UCOP didn't care enough to send someone back to UCSB to see how their plan is working for us. And they can shield themselves from criticism with their survey.  Furthermore, the turnout for this meeting was small (I think because no one has yet really checked the year-on-year price increases).   The UCSB Senate leadership in the room did not seem not interested in the lawsuits or in an official letter of protest of the ongoing inequity. 

Would the Senate start by endorsing the Faculty Association call for an official task force and delegation?  To express your opinion, you can write Chair Bhavnani via the UCSB Senate splash page. You can also write the systemwide Senate chair, UCI professor Mary Gilly at mary.gilly@ucop.edu. The chair of the systemwide Senate's Faculty Welfare committee is UCSD professor Joel Dimsdale at jdimsdale@ucsd.edu.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 1

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
The Center for American Progress released two reports on higher education recently.  One explored the dramatic state disinvestment in higher education that accompanied the Great Recession.  The other demonstrated the particularly intense effects of this disinvestment on community colleges. You can see the numbers for your state in this interactive display.

In most ways, these reports will not surprise anyone who has been following higher education news. As they make clear, the long term reduction in state funding to public higher education institutions has intensified since 2008. Tuition has gone up, the percentage of students taking on debt has increased, and between 2008-2012 the size of the annual individual debt grew about 25%. (1)  In the aggregate none of this will strike anyone as new.

But what is crucial in these reports is the focus on the impact of these changes on lower-income students.  And here the reports are telling.  For one thing, for decades the rate of lower-income college attendance grew, but that has now been reversed and in the last several years the rate has dropped nearly 10% (Note that Figure 1 below describes attendance rather than completion rates, which are far lower--compare Tom Mortenson's graphic in Chris's post on Free UC as a cure for low-income student debt.)

If we note that the community colleges have borne the greatest brunt of the cuts, we can give the lie to those arguments that claim that high tuition/high financial aid systems are enough to ensure that higher education is open to all and that it retains its role as a crucial site for delivering mass capability, social and intellectual mobility, and the democratization of knowledge.

That these reports came out during election season is not surprising, but that they came out during this election season is notable.  After all, this is an election year in which GOP controlled legislatures have taken repeated steps to suppress the voting rates of people of color, the poor, the elderly, and students, not primarily through outright repression (although sometimes that does occur) but through raising the costs of voting.  Indeed one recent study has argued that the costs imposed by the new voter identification rules are actually greater than the poll taxes struck down in the 1960s.  If we add that to the efforts to shorten or eliminate early voting, the reduction in the numbers of voting places, the threatening mailers, etc. we can see a concerted effort to raise the costs--economic and social--of voting to the end of discouraging participation.

Now, while the efforts to suppress voting is being done overwhelmingly in Republican controlled states, the process of higher education disinvestment is a bi-partisan endeavor (as shown over and over and over and over again by Governor Brown).  I don't think that the effort to shift costs onto students and discourage poor students from attending 2 and 4 year institutions is a conscious effort to decrease their education.  At least I don't think that yet.

But unpleasant parallels are there.  They point to a political and economic elite that is willing to use market or market-like mechanisms not to increase "choice" as they often claim but to increase burdens.  The results overlap: we have been seeing higher costs for accessing both the political and the educational systems. We have also been seeing a relentless growth of economic inequality, which is in effect a way of pushing more of the burden of a declining economy onto a larger and larger portion of our society. From this perspective, the entrenched sclerosis of our political institutions ushers higher education towards its new role of lesser mobility for the overcharged majority.

High tuition, state disinvestment, voter ID laws, reduced voting times--these are linked.  They are the common currency of politics and higher education policy from Sacramento through Oakland onto Tallahassee.  It is a linkage that must be broken.

Posted by Michael Meranze | Comments: 8

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014
Chris here. As part of the Free Speech Movement anniversary events at UC Berkeley last month, Michael and I had a two-hour discussion with Berkeley faculty and staff at an event sponsored by the Berkeley Faculty Association.  We are posting our slides here and we will provide a bit of commentary along the way.

We pointed out at the start of the talk that we don't think that the policies that respond to the "new normal" are very new. The situation itself isn't new either.  The combination of inadequate public funding and expanding dependence on private support has framed the entirety of both of our careers.

So we divided up our presentation.  We have a final slide, Option 3, that was meant to prompt discussion about how UC faculty in particular should respond.

Part I.

Our core concern here was with Impacts on faculty work life—and hence on the university’s academic productivity.  How are we all feeling? How is morale, job satisfaction, pleasure in the job, the “faculty experience”? 

There are some specific components that always get attention: (1) Salaries.  (2) Benefits. We are also preoccupied with (3) working conditions: hours per week, staff support, quality of time for research thinking, and particularly time for the unfocused reflection that finds and fixes problems in deadline work, and is the main source original thinking. Do we have the conditions for “depth” – for slow work, slow method? 

In addition, there's (4) Professional Autonomy. Is the university gradually making its faculty post professional? Or does the university still reflect the faculty's various educational and research visions? 

These questions are best answered with qualitative data. Here we invoke a few crude metrics just to illustrate the problem. One is compensation.  UC has a well-known salary lag.  I recently read a report in which the UC president claimed that "faculty salaries at the University of California already lagged behind our peer institutions around the nation by about 8 to 9 percent and are projected to lag about 16.5 percent come July.'’  The president was David Saxon, speaking to the Los Angeles Times in December 1982. 

For decades, UC officials have also pointed out that generous retirement and health benefits made up for lower salaries: while salaries lagged, "total compensation" was well above average.   Unfortunately, this last round of cuts has eliminated the advantage in total compensation. 

The slide below was recently confirmed by a Mercer compensation study that shows that UC faculty total compensation joins cash salary at subpar, both are in the negative 10-12 percent range. This means that the value of UC benefits has declined substantially in recent years.   And of course salary "scales" no longer function normally: departments we've spoken to now routinely add "above scale" salary to routine merit requests and more frequently request advances of more than one step.  Salary inequity and the "loyalty penalty" are both growing problems that salary scales, when properly funded, had at least partially solved.

Another major UC faculty issue is the state of graduate programs and funding, since they are the hallmark of UC as a research university. The next slide shows a decades-long decline in the system's share of grad students.

We didn't assert that UC grad students should be at a particular level--say, 20 percent of total student enrollments-- or quality is at risk. Our point was that UC has had a goal of bring all the campuses to the research intensity of the flagships, and that this is one of many core educational projects that have never been achieved because of insufficient funding.

Then there's faculty-staff relationships. Faculty need staff more than ever to do more complicated kinds of research and instruction. Both core activities are getting more collaborative, and require a wider mixture of skills. As just one example, use of instructional technology would increase more quickly if faculty could work with course designers to help make large lectures more effective. Instead, this has been the moment in history that universities like UC Berkeley used programs like Operation Excellence to split staff from faculty into "shared services" pools.

There's a potential staff partner now--trapped behind a pane of glass. Off-campus staff pooling could seem like a good operational idea only to business consultants who have no idea how faculty or educational staff actually work. We understand that the Berkeley campus senate is now finally looking into problems with OE.  But unravelling the worst parts of the program will cost money we don't now have.

Here's a summary slide for trends that limit traditional faculty autonomy without improving effectiveness.

We didn't go into depth on any of these trends, but each reflects the growing tendency for the ground rules of the core area of faculty sovereignty, instruction, to be set by non-teaching managers with little faculty input.  I'm particularly interested in the last two.   It's obvious to me that the 21st century world requires more complex intellectual capabilities than ever, and that these depend on integrating diverse forms of knowledge both within and between courses.  And yet this is the moment in which many think college should be more like a single-subject training module, or that more difficult or boring parts of courses can be thrown out in favor of a greatest hits approach.  We saw xMOOCs crash and burn because their marketing got so far ahead of their educational performance. We're getting set up for repeat performances in more obscure parts of the university. 

Nonetheless, the default political model for a university degree is increasingly community college job training--among Democrats as much or more than among Republicans. The current pathway is that many educational activities even at major flagships like UC Berkeley will be diluted and standardized, while most sponsored research projects will be protected. UC Berkeley is cutting against this with programs like Berkeley Connect, but the trend is towards concentration of resources rather than toward general quality through wide distribution. This is a normal effect of replacing public money--for general quality--with private funds, which are self-interested and targeted.

Part II.

We're suggesting through this sampling of trends that UC isn't on the mend, and won't heal by itself.  What are more positive options?

The California governor was giving his Inaugural Address, and alleged as follows:
false prophets have risen to advocate more and more government spending as the cure – more bureaucratic programs and higher staffing ratios of professional experts. They have told us that billion dollar government increases are really deep cuts from the yet higher levels of spending they demand and that attempts to limit the inflationary growth of government derive not from wisdom but from selfishness. That disciplining government reflects not a care for the future but rather self-absorption. These false prophets, I tell you, can no longer distinguish the white horse of victory from the pale horse of death.
This was not Ronald Reagan but Jerry Brown.  It was not the latter-day but the original Jerry Brown, in his 2nd inaugural address in January 1979. "Jerry Brown's mad as hell," all right, and still mad thirty years later.  He's mad at people who want public funding. This means YOU--the University of California. Whether it's the 1980s or the 2010s, Jerry Brown is the original Austerity Democrat.  

He's not going to restore anything. Not next year after his re-election. Not ever.

Gov. Brown isn't alone. Here's a Legislative Analyst Office slide that breaks down growth by category in state funding over the decade leading up to the financial crisis. The starting points are of very different sizes so the percentages are somewhat deceptive. But it tells an important story:

The two biggest losers at the state level are higher education and job training. California says it has a world-leading human capital economy. But it minimizes public investments in  human capital.

Of course California surfed a national wave of replacing state funding with tuition:

The whole country has been on a privatization binge.  Overall spending kept rising, but not for instruction or academic salaries.  Most of the increased spending in this slide comes from facilities competition, marketing, and related administrative functions demanded by privatization itself.

Here's a slide I've often updated for various posts on the UC budget. The story is always the same. The blue line tracks the growth in state personal income. Were UC's state funding to have grown merely at the same rate as actual state income, it would have matched the blue line.

Instead, UC has fallen $2 billion behind. (The general fund total is about $3 billion in 2014-15, but we now have to subtract the interest on construction bonds that the state used to pay and that is now, per UCOP's request, on UC's budget. So this chart is still current.)

In recent years, UCOP has started to quantify, in simple terms, the kind of rebuilt revenues that would get the system back to solvency. This one started to appear three years ago (Display 6).

The University needs about 16 percent increases per year, UCOP has been saying, to make up for past cuts and ongoing mandatory cost increases. (This is on top of cost reductions and other savings that haven't fully materialized, so this slide understates the problem.)  

Scenario 1 is a split, which means 8 percent + 8 percent each year from students and from the state. Scenario 2 is close to the Compact ratios that UCOP struck with Arnold Schwarzenegger--tuition increases of two or three times the state's increase. Scenario 3 is all tuition. There's a missing Scenario 4 that appeared in an early slide -- 16 + 0, where the state stops asking students to pay more and fills in the difference. UC is getting none of these.  It's getting 4 + 0, for the foreseeable future.

The result of revenue increases of ¼ of need appears in another UCOP figure:

This projects a $3 billion deficit only two academic years from now.

One of the best translations of this figure came from President Mark Yudof, when he addressed a Regents retreat in September 2012 (my transcription):
There were no board votes approving faculty salaries that are not competitive with peer institutions, . . .yet we are 10-20% behind in faculty compensation. There were no board votes approving a freeze on faculty hiring, but effectively that is what we’ve had over the last few years. There were no board votes approving a steady rise in our student-faculty ratio over the last decade, but in fact our numbers show a decline over the decade of 50% -- that is, we have 50% more students per faculty member than we did in previous decades. And in the past six years we have 30,000 more students without adding any new faculty at all, other than replacing existing faculty. You didn’t vote on any of that, but that is the consequence of the situation in which we find ourselves.
UC is still on that path today.

Are the campuses tied closely to the fate of the system? We couldn't address this question in a short talk, and took a quick look at Berkeley. The flagships have better resources than the younger campuses, but even Berkeley has been struggling. It fell into deficit in FY 2013.

I think the appearance of an operating deficit in FY2013 resulted from running out of reserves that covered holes in previous budgets. But I am guessing. I also don't have more current numbers. The point here is that even the historic wealth of UC's oldest, most accomplished, and most established campus doesn't protect it from the effects of a broken business model, in which private funds are supposed to make up for public cuts, but don't.

We noted that the administrative responses are credible but inadequate. We can't blame people for trying to do something, and using the tools that are actually and hand.   Still, we would prefer that folks admit this stuff won't work, since that's the first step towards trying something else that might.

"Nickel" solutions is my shorthand for widely-advertized solutions that in reality generate about 5 percent in additional revenues on a current base, or close about 5 percent of a funding gap.

This slide has no math. Leave a comment if you want me to produce some. I noted that I think OE's savings will be negative as it is patched and partially reversed to fix the inefficiencies (not to mention the reduced job satisfaction) it has produced. There's a lot to say about NRT, which lets the state off the hook, is now producing an organized parental backlash, and externalizes costs onto other campuses who take the less profitable but qualified state residents that Berkeley rejects. And that's for starters. This is not a sustainable fiscal strategy, but I didn't belabor it so I'll control myself here.

The silver bullet is supposed to be non-resident tuition (NRT).  NRT is often described as essentially free money in the amount of $23,000 in fees that out-of-state and international students pay above the $12,000 or so base paid by residents. UCOP always says that NRT students don't crowd out residents, but instead subsidize resident education in a period when their state government no longer wants to.  The visual version of this claim looks like this slide from a UCLA's Senate deck in fall 2013.

No wonder people get excited if NRT allows 50 percent more mileage from resident tuition. But it doesn't.  Net resident tuition is being compared to gross NRT, while my calculation on the slide used UCSD's estimate of $10,000 net per NRT student.  Gross NRT was 8.5 percent of core funds at UCLA  (slide 4), which put net NRT back in the nickel range (and about 2 percent of overall campus revenues).  (The use of NRT increases inequities within the UC system, but we didn't go into this with our Berkeley audience.)

Another way of thinking about NRT is as compensation for state funding cuts.   At UCLA, gross NRT made up for about 1/3 of the state funding reduction in 2007-08 to 2012-13 (slide 5).  This money is a lot better than nothing--if it's free politically as well as fiscally. But it never has been, as we've argued here going back to 2009.  This fall, UC officials are finally admitting this in public. This particular nickle solution may have peaked. 

My summary of this section was that the New Normal is the Old Normal. In other words, the Old Normal is what current budget politics will keep delivering. Unfortunately, the Old Normal is broken, in the sense that it can't support the working conditions that made UC so good in the first place.

This unhappy thought brought us to Option 2, where Michael took over.

Part III.

Michael here.  One possible response to this pattern of state cutbacks and nickel solutions would be for faculty to look inward to their department-based projects and let existing shared governance take care of the "big picture."  That would be mistake.  Shared governance has declined, and as it is presently practiced can't redirect the institution towards educational improvement or professional development.  

I found two organizational charts that illustrate the problem.

This first is from a 1998 essay by John Aubrey Douglass, arguably the leading historian of UC, about shared governance.  Although simplified, it shows the central place of the Academic Senate (on a level with Chancellors), with its leadership at the top of the pyramid  (level with the Council of Chancellors).

Now compare that with a current organizational chart provided by UCOP online:

If you pull out your magnifying glass you will find the Academic Senate in the purple box off to the left.  The Senate is directly connected only to the President and has been crowded out by the multiplication of administrative authorities over the past 15 years.

The theory of the Senate's role has stayed the same.

Shared governance was built on the professional status and educational authority of the Faculty.  This status enabled the faculty to delegate authority to the Senate and then go about its everyday business in classrooms, labs, libraries, and departmental meetings.  During the decades-long period of expanding resources, both state and federal, fiscal crises were the exception.  Departments could assume that if staffing needs weren't met this year they would be met next year or the year after. This eliminated the need for faculty to survey and manage the consumption of resources in other people's units, since there was little zero-sum competition over the medium or longer term. Administrators were able to handle routine management and planning within a relatively clear-cut political and economic ecology.

Unfortunately, that situation no longer exists.  Austerity has become the rule rather than the exception, and its consequences include the following.

We now live in a situation where instability is normalized.  While in the late 20c, administrators had to deal with the state, some donors, and a diffuse but not particularly interventionist public opinion (except for specific moments of crisis) managers now negotiate with a range of funding masters, most of which they have sought out, including an expanded universe of donors venture capitalists, bond raters, and out of state parents as well as an openly skeptical Governor and Legislature.

For the past two decades, UC managers have responded to pressure by shifting burdens onto those without the clout to reject them.  Students get increasing tuition, faculty get more work in the form of new tasks like fundraising and old ones on a larger scale (e.g. increased class sizes).  Staff members are being called upon to perform more work with fewer numbers.

I summarized the effect of the new financially-driven style of management with this slide:

I don't need to go into the detail of all of these--I'm sure you know them all well enough.  The point was that over the course of the last decade, the Senate, especially at the system-wide level, has been marginalized in the process of policy formation.  The structurally-produced reactive role makes it easier to cast the faculty as the opponents of progress, even as the central administration at UCOP has acted to impose its positions on the system as a whole.  In some cases (online education and the Supplemental Salary Program) there has been the appearance of shared governance.  In others, most recently the invention of UC Ventures, UCOP has simply cut the Senate out and chosen to work through task forces or through conversations with individuals.

I concluded that in its current weakened condition, the Academic Senate is no longer in a position to formulate, much less implement, a strong academic vision of UC's future.

Part IV.  

Chris again. Our premise is clear from the title of this slide.  We have concluded that UC can be fixed only through an unlikely but essential change--the broad mobilization of its faculty to define and then continuously shape the University's development over the next ten years. We mentioned theater professor Catherine Cole's initiative two years ago, which brought faculty, staff, and administrators together for several days.  

We noted some of our premises: the idea that there's no money is ridiculous. Austerity is slowly strangling us (e.g. Michael and Chris).  Lowered expectations are damaging our imaginations.  We need to fight for genuine workplace needs.

This slide described five general areas of activity. 
The slide fulfilled its purpose as a conversation starter--the discussion went on for 30-40 minutes.  I'll emphasize a few major themes.  

One was the need to deal with faculty privilege--both the perception of it invalidating our critique and the reliance on it to remain passive. My own sense is that this can be neutralized when faculty visibly stand up for other people, which we didn't do, for example, when frontline staff were being carted off to shared services because of Operation Excellence. That precedent can be changed.  Another example was the panic about resources and completion in graduate programs.  Faculty should work more systematically on the protection and support of our masters and doctoral students.

A second was doubt about the "efficacy of stories." What can tales of the struggles of faculty or staff or students actually do, institutionally?  Some of the stories were in fact about faculty defeat--and of course our story is about the rise of managerialism to control (rather than rebuild) declining resources. Stories need to lead to mobilization and organization: how do these do that? They certainly don't do that by themselves. 

This led to a third major topic.  The New Yorker in the room said, "you guys need a union." So did someone from Cal State. A UC librarian noted how their union produce some wins for libraries: librarians have much less power than faculty, she said, and yet look what our organization did. A Berkeley faculty member defined the needed project as co-governance,  with structure of implementation TBD.  There was another call to join the Berkeley Faculty Association!   And so now what? Where things go from here depends entirely on us.
Posted by Chris Newfield | Comments: 5