Thursday, August 13, 2009

UCB Prof Christine Rosen on Studying Budgets and Subsidies

I'd like to know more specifics about the issue of higher subsidies for professional schools as well. Haas has negotiated with the university for permission to move toward a market based, external funding model. As a result some of our faculty positions, for example, are now, as I understand it, entirely non-state funded. The external funding comes from the "market based" tuitions we charge students in our MBA and executive education programs, and from endowments.

Can the subsidies be analyzed for us and broken down by professional school as well as by departments within the professional schools and within L&S? My guess is that these subsidies vary considerably in scale even within L&S. Chris Newfield says as much in his second post:

"Thus a med school may get $50,000 per student FTE (a figure mentioned by UC's then-budget director in 2005), and a law school may get $35,000 per student FTE. One case I studied in detail had a humanities division's departments averaging closer to $5000 per student FTE and social sciences still lower than that. In that case, science departments were closer to the humanities, and engineering in between hum and the professional schools. The professional school amounts vary quite a bit, but I have never seen a systematic comparison."

What are the criteria that are being used to allocate the subsidies?

Equally important, just what are we talking about when we throw around the notion of a dollar amount of subsidies per student in one school versus another? Per undergrad student in the department's (or school's) major? Per grad student? Per total number of students, grad or otherwise, enrolled in a department's classes? Since students take classes in departments outside their majors and graduate programs, I would be concerned about these statistics. At least I would want to know exactly what is being measured and compared.

There are many ways to analyze and compare subsidies. For example, we faculty are also subsidized by the state in various ways, other than through our state funded base salaries. How do the state funded components of faculty start up packages compare across the university? Again, we may very well find that they vary considerably between departments in A&S and in the professional schools, as well as between schools. We are also likely to find that the packages granted to faculty in the sciences and engineering (a professional school) dwarf those received by faculty in the humanities. This is no doubt due, at least in part, because they include labs, but likely also related to other factors. Again what are the criteria that the campus uses to allocate state (and non-state) funding? Are they fair? Are they rational according to some logic?

It sounds like we might be trying to open a can of worms by even thinking about looking into this. What can we learn about how UC and UCB take from one pot to give to another pot that is not going to appear to threaten those that get more, while infuriating those that don't get as much?

Yet if the $/student subsidies figures that Chris N. and Charlie S. are using are disguising or distorting the reality of student subsidies, it would be good to try to figure all this out, if only for transparency's sake.

In his piece on The Cost of Undergrad Education on his website, Charlie asks:

"The new question, not previously asked, is this: Is there some logical, moral or political limit to how high student fees (tuition) could be raised at a public research university? A fee level at 100% of the actual cost of their education seems to provide a most significant boundary. Beyond that point, undergraduate students (and their parents) are being forced to not only pay for everything they get, but must also subsidize the other functions - graduate education and faculty research - which undeniably provide broad benefits to the whole public, beyond the individual student. One could call this selective taxation, privatization, or any other name you wish; but such a forced subsidization is something that deserves serious debate as a matter of public policy."

In my view we need a great deal more information before we can answer these sorts of questions. We also need to think the issue of cross subsidies through more clearly. There are all sorts of cross subsidies taking place: between departments and schools, between undergrad and grad ed. At Haas tuition is funding faculty appointments. Students take courses in other schools and departments. Several of the so called Enviro-deans subsidized the Berkeley Institute for the Environment for several years out their discretionary funds. The cross subsidies are not just monetary - they also build the "Berkeley brand." The high reputation of our graduate schools helps attract the best undergrads. Grad and UG students, alike, benefiting from having the best faculty. Buildings and rec centers are built courtesy of the tax payers via money raised by state bonds. Berkeley's world class reputation is the product of all of our strengths. We are interdependent. Berkeley itself is greater than the sum of its parts because of the all resources, publically and privately funded, that exist here in our faculty, our undergraduate and graduate students, and our staff.



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