Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Out-of-state undergraduates at Berkeley

From: David Hollinger
To: Faculty Budget Forum (Berkeley)
Date: August 7, 2009 9:17:01 PM PDT

Subject: out-of-state undergraduates

I am new to this list, but having now read a number of its postings addressed to the issue of increasing out-of-state, high-tuition undergraduate enrollments, I want to explain why I believe Berkeley needs to explore this idea carefully rather than to dismiss it as inimical to our public mission or too unpopular within systemwide UC and within the State of California to have any hope of being implemented.

I begin with two assumptions. First, I assume that the State of California is not likely to soon return to the financing of the UC system in general and of Berkeley in particular at a level that will enable us, given today's costs and today's competition, to deliver to California the benefits that UC Berkeley has historically delivered as a first-class research and teaching institution according to the principles of the Master Plan. If I am wrong in this assumption-wrong, that is, in believing that the State cannot be counted on to do for Berkeley in the 2010s and thereafter what it did in previous generations- the case for increasing out-of-state undergraduate enrollment diminishes considerably. Second, I assume that the gap between what we can realistically expect from the State and what is now needed to maintain our level of excellence in research and teaching is too great to be covered by the cuts in administration-related and athletics-related expenses that are often said to be possible. If I am mistaken in this assumption- mistaken, that is, in believing that we will not get to where we need to be even if the most optimistic predictions of how much money can be saved in these ways are true- the case, again, diminishes considerably.

But those who oppose further exploration of the several initiatives that we have come to call "privatization," among which the non-state undergraduate increase is understood to be one, must surely persuade the rest of us that we can count on either changes in the politics of California (higher taxes, changes in the legislature or in the state Constitution that limits the legislature's ability to support UC more appropriately?) or internal cost-cutting, or both, to render the exploration of new forms of financial support unnecessary. I have been listening, but am so far unpersuaded. Hence the arguments for not exploring such options as increasing out-of-state undergraduate enrollment sound to me like expressions of willingness to trade away, in a bargain that I do not believe actually serves California well, our capacity to be what we have become in return for a more authentically public role.

What counts as authentically public is among the points at issue in our discussion. The fact that so much of Berkeley's budget already comes from non-state sources is significant, and already marks us off from earlier generations. State support has long since failed to keep up with the costs attendant upon maintaining a competitive position among the leading universities of the United States. If we moved to 20% out-of-state, high-tuition-paying undergraduates, I do not believe this would constitute so dramatic a step away from the fulfilling of our public mission. I am told that we are already close to 10% (the notion that there is a 7 or 8% statutory limit, which is sometimes voiced, is simply untrue, so far as I have been able to determine). The revenues gained by this increase to 20% would better enable Berkeley to deliver to the remaining 80% a campus of real distinction that will be threatened even for those 80% if we are unable to finance the normal operations of the Campus, including the maintaining of a faculty salary program remotely competitive with the private universities with whom we complete for faculty. Other UC campuses would be in a position to recruit many of the students who would be replaced at Berkeley by out-of-staters, and it is not obvious to me that all of these campuses would so vociferously object if Berkeley went in this direction. Not every campus in the system should be obliged to deal with the present crisis in exactly the same way. Berkeley is especially well positioned to attract qualified students (including ethnoracial minorities) from other states. If the State is not willing to support the university system it has created, its political leaders might be persuaded that this system's proper functioning is of sufficient value to California to justify a greater degree of "privatization" on the part of Berkeley, and perhaps UCLA and perhaps San Diego, even as the State continues to support the UC system but at lower relative levels than in the past.

A real problem with the Academic Council's 2006 "Futures" document is that it seems to assume that all UC campuses should deal with financial exigencies in the same manner, no matter how distinctive the opportunities and challenges faced by an individual campus. That document also offers an analysis of the experience of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor that I (as someone who was an officer of the faculty senate at Michigan during some of the years of the transition described by the Academic Council's document) find less than convincing. That Ann Arbor's decline by the indicators mentioned can be attributed to the increase of out-of-state students strains credulity. The authors of the document seem unaware, moreover, that Michigan had even higher out-of-state undergraduate enrollments in earlier decades (when its rankings were higher), sometimes more than 33%. Further, the relation of the Ann Arbor campus to the other Michigan campuses, whose plight seems of special concern to the Academic Council, is very different than the relation of Berkeley to other UC campuses under the Master Plan. Following Michigan's example by increasing out-of-state undergraduate enrollment may or may not be a good idea, but the Academic Council's document of 2006 is of virtually no assistance in assessing this prospect.

My point in contributing this message to the list is not to pretend to have resolved the issue, but to indicate some reasons for keeping the discussion open, and for applauding the decision of DIVCO at its April 27 meeting to propose to EVCP George Breslauer the formation of a joint Senate-Administration Task Force on enrollment planning that would be explicitly charged with the critical assessment of the proposal for increased out-of-state undergraduate enrollment.

Finally, an observation and a disclaimer. The observation is that the ways in which any of us frame and discuss the issues before us are inevitably affected by our sense of the larger context of American higher education and of the conditions that impinge upon it. My own sense of this larger panorama, considered over the long term, is spelled out in an essay I first wrote a decade ago upon completion of my service as Chair of our Budget Committee and recently reprinted; it is available at for anyone who may be interested in it. I believe the historical conditions of American universities have changed considerably from the era in which these institutions achieved their present structure and function. These changes affect the moral as well as the practical challenges we face. "New occasions teach new duties," wrote Lowell in The Present Crisis, "Time makes ancient good uncouth." The disclaimer is this: I want to say that I have not figured everything out. I find myself uncertain about the wisest course for Berkeley. But amid my uncertainties, I am quite certain of one thing: most of the people who, like me, spoke at the August 3 Town Hall Forum sponsored by the Senate, are not much closer than I am to figuring things out. In my uncertainty, I appear to be in good company.

--David Hollinger


David A. Hollinger

President Elect, Organization of American Historians

Preston Hotchkis Professor of History

Department of History

UC Berkeley

Berkeley CA 94720-2550



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