Monday, June 21, 2010

Notes on the June 14th UCOF Meeting

By Suzanne Guerlac

Gould opened the meeting stating the CA government is listening, that there will be a substantial increase in funding, although still not enough. He emphasized the need in the CA for more skilled workers and how UC can support the innovation-based economy of the state. He stated that recommendations from the Commission would be sent to the Board of Regents within the next couple of months. He specifically cited the 3 year degree proposal, more on-line courses, self supporting post baccalaureate degrees, and best practices in administrative areas: we’ll change how the university “ does business.”

President Yudof: thanked the working groups for their contributions and stated that their work has now come to a close, promised that the Commission will stay in touch with the group members, cc-ing them on reports etc. and they are welcome to “communicate with us.” He stated that the first round of recommendations was “ exactly that,” a first round, and that the Commission wanted to look at a broad range of ideas “ in time to review how to move forward.” He stressed the value of “sustainability” in relation to UC finances, indicating that, for example, furloughs were “not sustainable.” The Commission is seeking long-range sustainable plans. When working through the proposals the governance process would have to be taken into account, curricular reform, in particular, “would have to be addressed by the Faculty Senate.” He then stated that the next steps would involve “ an orderly process for gaining assent” in accordance with CUFCA, the unions, etc.

Henry Powell: stressed that the Commission was at a “ turning point in the process,” shifting from a listening role to one of “active deliberations.” He stated that the Academic Senate had produced 300 pages of commentary on the working group recommendations, which had been synthesized into a 13-page summary. He stressed that the members of the AS had been divided in their response. The full report has been posted on the Senate website. The AS will consider the new recommendations at a later meeting. He stressed that in response to fiscal challenge, the work of the Commission would affect the University for years into the future, that for the last 20 years or so the university has been accommodating more students for less money and operating at a considerable level of efficiency but that class sizes have been growing, there have been losses in TAs, staff, phones in offices, etc. How can we continue to do more with less and keep the reputation and quality of the University? He stated that the AS asks that the Commission evaluate measures in relation to the core values of the University, stressing that quality is of paramount importance. He emphasized that time is required for deliberation, and that the academic calendar needs to be taken into account so that faculty can respond to new recommendations.

Public Comment period:
A number of students raised the question of protecting financial aid for undocumented students. Charles Schwartz called into question the basic assumptions of the Commission, judging their efforts to be in bad faith. I asked what would be the timing and procedures for faculty review of the new recs.

There was a brief discussion of the undocumented student issue. Someone asked why the two working group recs that concerned undocumented students were not on the agenda.

Yudof answered that 1) it is out of his hands, a matter of complex legal issues, 2) he picked recs that had most financial impact. AB540 was important but had no financial impact. “Financial problems are the heart of the Commission’s work.” Simmons interjected that the AC had supported the position of the students, i.e. of providing aid to undocumented students.

Financial report by Nathan Bostrum. To provide “context” for discussion of recs – the deficit in the coming decades. There will be a gap between revenue and expenses of 4.7 billion over the next ten years. Even if costs were brought down (by changes in pension and health, by not fixing the salary gap re both faculty and staff, by delaying various “quality initiatives”), there would still be a 700 million gap that could be reduced if the state would respect its obligations concerning pensions. The gap is larger if enrollments increase. Bostrum cited the Obama administration’s goal of adding a million new degree holders, adding 50,000 more students in the next decade (while the need exists to add over 100,000 new students). This would amount to two new campuses of the size of Irvine or San Diego. Indicated the goal to increase the number of graduate students (either the absolute number or the percentage). 1/3 of students receive Pell grants. Stressed commitment to financial aid and that for many (53%?) the fee increases were covered by financial aid.

Art Pulaski (Secretary Treasurer of the California Labor Federation): the fee increases been very tough for working class kids. Total cost is higher than the charts indicate. As things stand tuition for one child costs 20% of family income at 120,000 combined income.

Gould: lack of dependability of the state, CA deficit, there’s still the 700 million gap, we need to look at our own “ business enterprise” and ask “ are we doing business right, maintaining quality, being more efficient?”

The discussion would focus on recommendations that address fiscal issues and revenue stream: indirect cost recovery, post-baccalaureate degrees, advocacy, multi-year fee schedule and administrative best practices, including the Academic Council recs that call for operating at a size we can afford, and enrollment issues such as enhancing transfer path, upgrading ASSIST [the electronic site that gives students info re transfer credits at various UC institutions] and on-line credit bearing courses.

Item #1 (presented by Mary Croughan): Indirect cost recovery – the most significant rec in terms of revenue, presented by Funding Strategies and Research Working Groups.

There are about $3.5 billion/yr in grants and a shortfall of 720 million in overhead expenses.
Need for increased transparency re recovered funds. Presently a 4% “tax” to OP which gets commingled with other funds; recommends a 3% tax and 100% of recovered funds going back to campuses.
Believes $300 million is a “conservative estimate” of what can be recovered.

Powell: concerned about impact on junior faculty and competitiveness for grants if too much cost recovery is demanded.

Henry Yang (UCI Chancellor): Each campus should set a rate. Discussions in AAU about this [he is currently president of AAU]..

Croughan: There should be a “dedicated negotiating team” – centralize this a hire consultants – to help individual campuses in indirect cost recovery.
Bostrum: this is “most valuable money” for us because we can spend it on anything. We should advocate nationally w/ Sec. of Education.

Simmons: If we insist on too much recovery the amount will be taken out of the grant, so no big revenue. Academic Council against a ban on accepting grants that do not cover these costs. Need joint effort among UC campuses.

Croughan: faculty seeking grants must state how these costs would be covered; a central fund to assist in this could be set up.

Edley: Document needs to be explicit about the point Dan [Simmons] made; there is a bias toward the sciences. Encouragement needed to protect humanities. Janet Broughton supported this rec.

Gould: a national effort is needed; the state not providing this as it used to do.

Yudof: form a management team and find out, a negotiating team, need more oomph behind this. Move it forward: “ more aggressive pursuit of recoveryof indirect costs,”

Pulaski: need transparency concerning where these funds would go.

Gould: agreed.

Item #2, presented by Keith Williams: self-supporting post BA degrees. Two parts to this: 1) a self-supporting program initiative 2) on-line component.
Currently UCLA and UCI have entirely on line professional degrees. Ex: business degrees. Potential for revenue in relation to targeted audiences.

Problem concerning timely approval of courses. Should put in place a mechanism to speed up approval.

Edley: there is a danger of over regulating from the center, which would choke imagination and entrepreneurial energies on individual campuses. There is revenue potential here as well as educational value. Delays and overregulation are very problematic. This has been discussed for 18th months with no progress. Many of the concerns Keith mentions should be left to individual campuses.

Gould: re growth of private entrepreneurial institutions –UC is lagging on this, there’s a demand we are not meeting.

Edley: example of masters degree in “circuit design”; units should identify their own niches, every campus with its own business plan etc. The spirit of this rec is not a big apparatus in Oakland but to encourage campuses to push this creatively, in the spirit of reducing barriers, and further encouraging something we are already doing.

Powell: often when approval is slow it is because the proposal is badly done.

Simmons: Academic Council is against a central regulating mechanism. Concerning on-line on undergraduate level, Council is “ nervous and cautious”, endorses pilot program – yes, go get outside funding.

Gould: Regents ought to look at this – new initiative, enter into competitiveness.

Powell: there is already success in this area of professional schools, work with Extension; there is no research on what markets are out there, need market studies.

Gould: I concur.

Yudof: send information item to Regents re self-supporting graduate degrees (in July or September).

[short lunch break]

Item: Advocacy for the University.

Powell: it needs to be a “permanent war.” The importance of 4/27 when all constituencies appeared to come together.

Pulaski [union rep]: advocacy efforts should also be directed to the “public at large.”

Croughan: “public engagement”

Gould: “Let’s move this along”
Pulaski: to include unions within the “ all constituencies” effort it would be necessary to address some of the union and staff issues.

Item #2 Administrative Efficiencies (streamlining administrative operations, already discussed at May Regents meeting), presented by Peter Taylor.
Necessary to add investment for system-wide capabilities. Taylor stressed the importance of reducing administrative costs at the department level – the bulk of the costs exist at this level. Need to “rework the way our business processes work.” Specific emphasis on procurement issues.

Yudof: This has been discussed with Regents, needs to be routed through OP in order to get this done, need for a more “totalitarian regime” on this. Need to earn trust because the track record is not very good, services have been centralized and then not worked very well.

Edley: trust issue also pertains to how funds that are saved would be used: how will savings be accounted?

Gould: “good question, Chris.” Chancellors should “harvest” savings on campuses.

Pulaski: there is also the issue of high end compensation for a growing number of high-end administrators; executive compensation should be included in any evaluation of administrative costs.

Bostrum: this is always being evaluated.

Gould: importance of transparency on all compensation. Need for a centralized payroll system.

Yudof: a final report will be drafted.

Item #2: presented by Peter Taylor: multi=year fee schedule for the sake of predictability of students and families and to enable long term budget planning. This was an item suggested both by the Funding Strategies Group and the Access and Affordability group.

Initially this was discussed only as a tool to enable multi-year planning; it is now used for professional programs.

Yudof: fee increases are a response to state budgets produced and varying annually. If there is a guaranteed multi-year fee schedule the university assumes risk.

Jessie Bernal(Student Regent) – it would extend Blue and Gold type protection to middle class families.

[Speaker?] Objection to the proposal: it would institutionalize fee increases.

Simmons: Academic Council (see p. 105) favors providing accurate information
But does not support the rec because of legal risk to UC and because it would force more increases with each new cohort of students producing different cohorts. The state does not provide multi-year budget plan.

Gould: it is an issue of commitment. The Regents had concerns re Compact agreed to by the state and then not respected. The rec puts UC at risk in relation to irresponsible decision-making coming from Sacramento. There are two issues embedded in this rec: 1) the fee schedule 2) the shift from “fees” to “tuition” – support for the latter, “not comfortable with the risk ” associated with the former.

Powell: AC agrees with change of name from “fees” to ”tuition”, it is consistent with other institutions, minimizes confusion and protects students seeking financial aid from funders who on provide “tuition.”

Monica Lozano : we still need a multi-year budgeting framework.

Yudof: I don’t sense enough support for the multi-year trajectory; the risk is unwise. Put this aside. “Our future does have fee increases”, this is not going to be reversed. “Its not free …hasn’t been for a long time.” Shift to “tuition” term – “I’m in favor of candor.”

Gould: move forward on tuition, hold on multi-year.

Next item: Academic Council recs.

Dan Simmons: AC recs not widely supported, passed by an 8 to 7 vote. The recommendations were controversial among faculty.
Stresses the deficit re funding pension over next ten years. “This will not be the University as we know it for years to come.” Paramount value of quality of research and teaching faculty, UC “ not a degree mill.”
Issues: 1) maintenance of quality faculty: competitive remuneration necessary for the survival of the prestige of UC degree. 2) UC must operative at a size that is affordable.
Replacing ladder faculty with instructors diminishes quality. Need to maintain excellence in fewer areas and pay a smaller faculty competitively. 3) UC should forego new building projects; we “can’t continue to grow as usual.”

Lozano: praises AC for willingness to shrink (keep quality by shrinking).

Edley: What do you mean by “ downsizing”? At what level are you proposing this (i.e. at program level, campus level, etc). Capital projects come from non-fungible resources.
Trade-offs should be made at campus level.

Simmons: let faculty shrink by attrition.

Yudof: reservations about this. Faculty is already being downsized by hiring freeze.
Downsizing students ” would worry me.” Worried about access. So how to downsize if you want to maintain teaching load, size of grad programs, student-faculty ratios, etc.

Powell: quality cannot be replaced. The issues of buildings needs close attention – even if funds are not fungible there are maintenance and operating costs – “ what you have built
threatens what you are.” Need for transparency about building programs.

Simmons: re: reduction of enrollment - we have become so dependent on tuition that reducing students becomes a revenue loser. Re quality: the other things are fixable but if we lose the prestige of UC, we can’t fix this. Problem re diversity: downsizing faculty would mean less progress toward diversity among faculty.

Lozano: downsizing means cutting programs without high enrollments, eliminating duplications, etc. we “can’t afford all the specialized undergrad programs.”

Simmons: yes, like seven different kinds of chemistry majors on one campus. A smaller faculty would be more efficient.

It is pointed out that cutting small programs would only provide small revenue. This is very problematic, needs to be looked at for Regents to understand it.

Powell: these recs are a “tactical adjustment to current fiscal crisis” which he sees as a “short term crisis.”

Zaremburg: against moratorium on building projects because it is cheaper to build now and we put people back to work.

Gould: [responding to Powell’s comment]: we need to “start from the premise that this is not a bump in the road.” [to AC]: continue on with your work.

Next item: supporting transfer functions. Upgrade ASSIST: requires costs but these would be shared among three segments [CCs. Cal State and UC]. Need to sort our transferable courses (UC and Cal State), create a set of transferable courses for each major to make the process more efficient.

Gould: there is a bill in the legislature for a transfer degree – an AA – guaranteed admission, with AA to CSU. There is a need to prepare CC students for upper division courses or for direct entry into the work force.

Edley: we can create a”transfer culture” but our capacity for admissions [at UC [remains the same.

Blumenthal (UCSC Chancellor): problem is our campuses have different requirements for majors. Need to establish a level of uniformity in terms of major preparation. Need to bring faculty together in disciplines to set up uniform major requirements.

Yudof: legislature will pass the bill; how to consider a core curriculum that is uniform.
Who is this addressed to?

Blumenthal: to the Academic Senate. It needs to convene departments cross the system to establish uniformity. SB 1440 – 18 units dedicated to major would be accepted by CSU. No mention of UC. Need for course identification numbers for lower division prerequisites.

Yudof: we’ll draft up something for the report.

Gould: re ASSIST: we don’t have any money, it’s a band-aid. Look again at ASSIST when other program for collaboration across campuses is in place. Need to move on this for Legislature. Regents: we are too slow on this.

Simmons: we are already successfully transferring almost beyond our capacity.

Gould: that’s your case to prove. The people and legislature are on top of this issue.

Powell: they need to fund the CC’s. UC is “not a conveyer belt devised by the Legislature to produce degrees.”

Next item: production of post B.A. degrees.

Keith Williams (Co-chair of Ed and Curr working Group] introduces the subject of on-line education stating that there are reservations concerning quality, costs, infrastructure, impact on faculty workload, etc. but affirms faculty support for pilot program.

Lozano: what is the status of the pilot?

Edley: 1. Fundraising goal is 5-8 million.
2. 16 RFP have been drafted to go out once funding is received offering grants to devise courses.
3. There is an advisory committee, Gene Lucas and Larry [Pitts?] co –chairs plus representatives of the Academic Senate.
4. There is a technical advisory group that includes UC experts and “Silicon Valley types” to “ensure we’re at the frontier of software platforms.”
5. Have asked Extension to prepare an on-line presentation as a recruiting tool for faculty in RFP process; it will be ready in July,
6. Gene Lucas is head of a committee that is focused on evaluation framework re pilot: what would success look like? Working on a definition of quality for on-line.

Pulanski: re “success” - it is not just a question of a “knowledge set” for a course but of the liberal arts setting of an education.

Edley: “we absolutely agree.” We are seeking “comparison with on campus experience.” We already have a number of fully on-line courses and many more in which it is a component or enhancement. Several hundred [I assume system-wide] fully on-line given by Extension not for credit – they are making money – many are authored by/delivered by UC faculty. There are Extension courses offered for credit (9-14 at Berkeley) in summer – fully on-line courses.

The pilot is creating courses for currently enrolled students. If successful, would add populations not enrolled – goal is access and revenue.

MY: We’ll work a draft on this.

Powell: support hybrid form, blended experiences.

Williams: strong need for interaction in person. Not to replace a whole degree, perhaps 1/8 or ¼ degree, the rest would have to be resident.

Yudof: we’re out of time. We’ll send along an information item to the Regents who are quite interested in this.

Next meeting: Aug. 12 or Aug 31 will take up 3 yr pathways and additional recs


UCLA reader said...

A key policy issue to watch is whether or not the UC administration attempts to shift the burden of past underfunding of the pension program onto future UC students in the form of fee increases.

There seems to be anecdotal evidence that such an attempt may be in the offing.

For example, above we read that "There will be a gap between revenue and expenses of 4.7 billion over the next ten years. Even if costs were brought down (by changes in pension and health, by not fixing the salary gap re both faculty and staff, by delaying various “quality initiatives”), there would still be a 700 million gap that could be reduced if the state would respect its obligations concerning pensions.".

The above language seems to suggest that UCOF does see the underfunding of the pension fund as part and parcel of the general budget problem. I also recall seeing on the UCLA Faculty Association page an unattributed quotation from some UCOF member saying that the large recent fee increases were needed to restore UCRP.

While the above interpretation, i.e. that UC hopes to shift the burden of current and past underfunding of UCRP onto future UC students, may or may not be accurate, if true it does raise some questions of social justice.

What would be the rationale for asking future students to pay to help bail out deficits in the retirement funds which occurred in the past? To me at least it would seem unfair.

Of course, in practice I suppose it would be done by offset. Rather than to say that the students were directly bailing out UCRP, in practice salaries would be raise in tandem with increases in employee contributions to UCRP. To the students the U could say that salaries had to be increased, and that necessitated the fee increases. But the economic effect would be the same as though the students were charged for the past underfunding of UCRP.

I could see the rationale for charging students and other UC clients for the current portion of UCRP's normal cost, but not the underfunding of past pension costs.

As a practical matter however I suspect the issue is moot, because I don't think UC actually has sufficient room to raise fees to cover the underfunded portion of the pension fund. I don't think the traffic would bear it. And I think this will only become more true as the belief that a college education is a good value at any price becomes less and less prevalent in our society.

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