google-site-verification: googlea33552291e834fff.html Education: Is This What President Napolitano Meant by Teaching For California?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Is This What President Napolitano Meant by Teaching For California?

UC released its 2014 admission figures recently to significant controversy.  As both Cloudminder and Bob Samuels have pointed out, the figures raise important questions about the impact of the increasingly frenetic search for non-resident tuition.  It has become harder for California residents to get into UC. In addition, as Bob argues, since it is the wealthiest campuses who are admitting the greatest number of non-residents, the system tends to move California residents to those campuses with the least resources.  This structure both reinforces inequality within UC (between campuses) and also means that many resident students will be receiving less in the material and educational support that underlies high-quality education.

UC has for years funneled students who might want to go to the richer campuses to the less wealthy.  But in the past, that hasn't been because the wealthier campuses were being filled on the basis of who could pay the most.  It is a perverse situation at best.

The situation is not at its best. If you look at UC's admission statistics, it is striking that although UC admitted 6,576 more students in 2014 than in 2012 there were 243 fewer California residents (although there were slightly more than in 2013).  To offer a longer perspective, in 2009, UC received 126, 701 applications and admitted 66, 265 students, 58, 631 of them California residents.  California residents had an acceptance rate of 72%.  In 2014, UC received 148, 688 applications, admitted 86,865 of whom 61, 120 were California residents with an acceptance rate of 61.2%.  Put another way, although UC admitted 20,600 more students in 2014 than in 2009, only 2,489 were California residents and it was significantly harder for a California resident to be admitted in 2014 than in 2009.  In a striking refutation of George Breslauer and Carla Hesse's ideological fantasy that "a dollar is just a dollar," Berkeley admitted roughly 1000 fewer California residents than it did in 2012.  I understand that the expected yield on NRT acceptances is lower than on California residents.  But even so there can be no question that UC is increasingly not "teaching for California."

UC administrators, to be sure, will argue that these changes are necessary given the dramatic underfunding by the State.  There can be no question that the state has insisted on serious and highly damaging cuts over the last decade.  And I recognize the budgetary logic of this move to NRT.  But its wisdom is something else.

For one thing, it is important to disentangle UC's rhetoric from reality.  When UC discusses the economics of this situation it tends to emphasize gross revenues.  But that is a distortion of the situation.  For one thing it ignores the increased costs--especially concerning international students.  As a result, the actual net revenues are much lower (there have been estimates around $10,000 net, taking into account the state contribution and increased costs).  In fact, back when the decision was made to keep NRT revenues on the campuses that produced them, the argument was made that this was necessary because of the increased costs that accompanied those students.  I don't agree with Brad DeLong's account of the policy, but he is correct that the presence of NRT students will draw resources towards them

But there is a deeper level of confusion involved.  Proponents of NRT point to the increased revenue that out of state and international students bring to the university during their years of enrollment.  But to put it simply in these terms ignores the extent to which California residents and their families as taxpayers contribute to the university even in years when they are not enrolled.   Again, I recognize the defunding (we have been posting on it for years).  But we need to recognize that as a matter of equity Californians are asked to support the university system even when they are not enrolled.  It does not seem too much to ask that the university and Sacramento seek a way to meet that support without funneling California residents to less wealthy campuses because of the short-term support of out of state residents.  Producing inequality is not a winning long-term strategy for the University--at least if it expects to continue to receive support from Californians.

What then might UC do to look toward a better alternative path?

The first thing is to break with the habit of praising UC administrators for "making hard choices."  This has been the rhetorical tack beginning with the Gould Commission and continuing on through the fever of UC Online.  But in reality the "hard choices" of UC's administration have always been hard on other people: students, California residents, staff and to some extent faculty.  This practice is clear in the rhetoric of UCOP and the Chancellors in promoting NRT as a viable way to respond to the collapse of the old funding model.  The emphasis has always been on finding ways to cut the costs of instruction.  But given the rise in non-tenure track faculty, those costs have been being cut for a good many years.

How then might we begin a real conversation on the future of the public research university?  The following chart, courtesy of the AAUP, gives an indication:

http://www.aaup.org/sites/default/files/files/2014%20salary%20report/Figure%201.pdf
As we are reminded here, despite all of the rhetoric about the "cost disease" associated with teaching, universities and colleges have been engaged for decades in shifting their hiring from full-time tenure track faculty to part-time and full-time non-tenure track faculty.  Just as striking is the documentation of the extraordinary growth of what the AAUP calles "full-time nonfaculty professional."  The AAUP indicates a category "that includes buyers and purchasing agents; human resources, training, and labor relations specialists, management analysts; loan counselors; lawyers; and other nonacademic workers." Perhaps even more telling (given that it is not clear how many of these positions are filled by IT or student support personnel) is that according to at least one leading survey of administrative positions, since the late 1970s the number of administrative job titles has grown by 139% and the percentage of academic dean titles has dropped from 38 to 21%. (8)

To be sure, these categories are imprecise.  But that is part of the problem.  Despite the heroic efforts of Charlie Schwartz, we simply don't know the actual number of people in particular jobs on the different campuses, how many of them work directly in instructional or research support capacities, how many are front-line student services etc.  And the reason we don't know that is because UC's personnel systems are not set up to make that clear.

So if we really want to start thinking about how to maintain a public research university at UC, the first thing necessary is not a dramatic increase in NRT,  but a comprehensive, system-wide and campus-based assessment of administrative costs and benefits.  If UC wants to make "hard choices" they cannot be choices about administrative growth as usual while everyone else is facing increasing demands and students are paying more for less.  The real future lies in doubling down on our core mission of teaching and research and demonstrating to the state and to the public that we are driven by that and not by the search for rankings to recruit students from elsewhere.  It might even increase the quality of the education we offer.

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