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Blowback: Help California students by increasing UC tuition

RoyceGary Fethke and Andrew Policano respond to two recent Times editorials on the financial crisis facing the University of California system. Fethke is a professor of management sciences and former dean of the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business. Policano is dean of the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine. Click here for more information on Blowback, our forum for readers to respond, at length, to Times articles.

The Times’ April  12 editorial  weighs University of California President Mark Yudof’s five-year plan, which has the laudable goal of maintaining UC’s status as a top public university system. His idea is to obtain a credible commitment of financial support from the Legislature as a quid pro quo for tuition increases. Though he hopes to establish this deal with lawmakers, the reality is that California can no longer afford a taxpayer-funded premier university system when escalating costs for healthcare, public pensions and prisons are "crowding out" state appropriations for higher education.  Any five-year deal struck between UC and Sacramento would not be credible.

More recently on the editorial page, The Times on April 19 wrote that UC is "doing the right thing" by increasing the proportion of higher-paying students from outside California. The editorial says such a move is the best of a bunch of bad choices. Not so. Though both of these editorials weigh solutions for increasing revenue, doing so by boosting out-of-state enrollment does not make sense. 

At UC Irvine, applications now exceed student enrollments by a 10-to-1 ratio; almost every other UC campus faces excess demand. Still, the schools are being encouraged to accept a greater proportion of higher-paying students from neighboring states while qualified residents are rejected. In many cases, rejected California residents are indeed willing to pay higher tuition, but they cannot because the UC Board of Regents wants to keep tuition low for in-state students. Besides, many out-of-state students seek California residency after their first year in school and switch over to paying lower tuition.

The solution is to significantly increase tuition for California residents. A steady increase to at least $15,000 in tuition alone makes sense and would be in line with what comparable public universities charge. Over the next five years, tuition should be increased to about $20,000, which would almost replace the state subsidy apart from capital expenditures. These increases should be accompanied by generously boosting financial aid, similar to what Britain is considering. UC should be stronger and better financed than it is today, but to do so it must become more entrepreneurial and efficient.

Financial self-reliance is not yet common for public universities. But that should not stop UC from once again taking a leadership position and reaffirming its prominence as the most innovative and respected system in the world.

-- Gary Fethke and Andrew Policano


Editorial: President Mark Yudof's five-year plan for UC

Editorial: UC's out-of-state fix

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block: Cuts to higher education -- the Master Plan turncoats

Blowback archive

Photo: Royce Hall on the UCLA campus in Westood. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (19)

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For years the UC system has been a bargain compared to other elite universities (especially those on the east coast). I graduated from UCLA in the 90s and couldn't believe the low cost of tuition compared to what I was getting back in return.
The UC system has spoiled many Californians in to thinking that a UC education is a "right" vs a privilege. Personally the UC system should scrap it's guarantee to high school students if they graduate in the top 12.5%...it's a form of affirmative action if you ask me...especially if there are more qualified students from out of state. To still be considered the Ivy League of the West Coast...this is a move in the right direction. Then again, you could go to suc and paying thousands more for a JC education...just saying. ;)

Steve M.

As a graduate of UCLA, it's about time there was an accounting of sorts.

1. The cost to attend UCLA, in 1980 was $702 a year. Adjusted for inflation, in 2010 dollars it's about $2,200. What's the extra $10k going towards?

2. Why are illegal aliens allowed to attend for "Free" at the expense of othetr students?

3. How much money is in the endowment funds at UCLA and where is the dividend / interest on the money going?


Take their advice and only the children of the wealthy will be able to go to UC.

California has always prided itself on the availablity of a low-cost higher education. What the author's propose is an affirmative action program for the rich.

j. Marcus

It is not surprising that two faculty members in business in management propose a market driven strategy to fixing the lack of funding for the University of California. Essentially being proposed is a high fee/high aid model, in tax policy this is seen as high taxes with high subsidies. However I can’t agree.
While I commend UC for fixing some of the issues around the edges, I cannot support a proposal the basically privatizes the University of California. Fethke and Policano propose a model that would eventually remove the system from any form of state support. All this does is solve the problem for the legislature, letting them off the hook. I pay my taxes and expect a certain amount of service to go along with those. If we go down this path how long will it be until we realize we can take the roads off the county books and make them all toll? How long will it be until every government service has been privatized?
I’m not arguing against creating government efficiencies but I am arguing about doing the job of the legislature. They’re the ones who should be held responsible for allowing our state to invest more in a prisoner than an undergraduate. In 2008-09 the average state prisoner cost the state more than $48,000, while the maximum Cal grant was just over $5,000. When your average prison guard makes more than an assistant professor or a fifth grade system you know where our priorities are.


We oldsters got our good, cheap educations in California--so let's screw the next generations out of their chances.... Just remember, pops, the badly educated young ones today will be making life and death decisions for us in a decade or so: it's inevitable there will be death panels; they'll be "caring" for us in our rest homes --hmmm, should I bring Gramps a bedpan or let him go in his pants?; do I want to give Granny her meds today?; let's raise property taxes on the selfish old people and take their houses. We are leaving the children a mess already, and we need to educate as many of them as possible, or they're going to real mad and real dumb. You want that, gramps?

three g

Wonderful solution from these two -- let's set up a system that pretty much guarantees that any student who does not come from wealth will end up graduating with a mountain of student debt. Can't afford to pay up front, no problem - just borrow a bundle and begin a lifetime of servitude to Wall Street trying to pay off debts that are not even dischargeable in bankruptcy. That ought to stamp any liberal political thoughts out of those college educated peasants and get them focused on only real majors like "business management science" - really - "science"?


No problem, as long as the pricipal and interest are fuilly deductable from both federal and state taxes, otherswise go soak yourself. I have been paying taxes for many years, paying the college costs of others children Now, you want me to pay for college for my own children? Hmm, sounds like you got yours so the hell with the rest of us.

No, absolutely not. We should not be asked to pay and subsidize the college tuition of out-of-state students just because they pay a little more. The only way I would agree with this scenario is if they were required to pay the whole cost of tuition because otherwise, my children will have to pay that cost while being denied the same education. Now where is that fair?


If you want a UC education, which is among the best in the world, you have to pay more for it. Don't like it? Go to a Cal State.


It is a terrible thing to ask families earning $90K a year in California to subsidize the financial aid for families earning $55K a year, which is what the UC system is already doing. This proposal just makes that even worse. If it passes, middle class families in in $80-130K range (which doesn't go all that far given California's incredibly high taxes and housing costs) will be forced out of the UC system, while poor and wealthy students get all the opportunities.

Enough is enough. If the UC system returned to a merit-based system of admissions and forced under-prepared students to go the traditional route through the community college system with guaranteed transfer we'd see both substantially reduced costs in the UC system, more students graduating on-time, and a return to what the UC system was supposed to represent: the university for California's best and brightest.


I feel that the arguments made thus far - either for increased investment in UC by the state, for increasing out-of-state enrollment to raise revenue, or for increasing in-state tuitions - are all somewhat moot, pending the outcome of the audit of UC finances currently being performed by the California State Auditor.

The results of this audit are due out in July 2011. See http://www.bsa.ca.gov/bsa/aip.

Until the information from that audit is in hand, how can California citizens know whether their tax dollars are being spent wisely within the UC system? UC accounting practices always seem really murky to me, and so I am hoping that the results of this audit will shed some light on the current debate. The university's senior management continually petitions for increased state investment while bringing an implicit "Trust us" message. I think that it is fair to ask them how they are currently spending the taxpayer's money, before considering increases in UC funding with public dollars.

I have benefited from an affordable UC education, and I want to see that aspect of UC preserved and made available to future students in California. If increased state support is truly needed for that, then let's do it. But let us be well-informed first, before we throw more money at the problem.


What is ironic is that the majority of the state legislator's attended a state funded UC/CSU college. That includes Govenor Brown.

So the legislature thinks, "I got mine, you can get yours somewhere else?"

What I want to know is why "California can no longer afford a taxpayer-funded premier university system," when we can afford "escalating costs for healthcare, public pensions and prisons are 'crowding out' state appropriations for higher education." When Education is the one thing that would drastically reduce the need these entitlements.

How much much does tuition cost the state versus healthcare for the uninsured, pensions, and prisons?


Prisons and pensions are crowding out education. Anyone see anything wrong with that picture?


i, too received an excellent education at a U.C in the 1970's.....i was born and raised in california......... my parents and family were all born here....

isn't the charter for the university system in california,...... for the children of california?....doesn't it say that in the charter ? sure, things change, but when we forget a founding principle, we've lost our way....

Milan Moravec

There is something wrong when a University of California Chancellor, like Bergeneau, uses California tax payer $ to recruit out of state $50,000 tuition students that displace qualified Californians from attending University of California Berkeley.
In addition Cal. Chancellor’s gross over spending, inept decisions: recruits (using California tax $) out of state $50,000 tuition students that displace qualified Californians; spends $3,000,000 for consultants to do his & many vice chancellors jobs (prominent East Coast university accomplishing same at 0 cost); pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures; Latino enrollment drops while out of state jumps 2010; tuition to Return on Investment (ROI) drops below top 10; NCAA places basketball program on probation.
Cal. and Californians have been badly damaged by Chancellor Birgeneau. Good people are loosing their jobs. Cal’s leadership is either incompetent or culpable. Merely cutting out inefficiencies does not have the effect desired. But you never want a crisis to go to waste.

Increasing Cal’s budget is not enough; honorably retire Cal Chancellor Birgeneau ($500,000 salary)


If the authors want more efficiency and entrepreneurship, then stop departments that are unproductive from self-protection by hiring their own colleagues: peer-review is a political process and deeply flawed, according to many researchers in this area. Many arts and humanities faculty at UC stop being productive with the granting of tenure: if you want efficiency, then stop paying profs. 30k per class (usually a seminar), to say nothing of the abuse of graduate students, who are virtual slave-labor (as are part-time faculty). If you want some efficiency in the system, then tax the faculty that use their post to maximize their non-uc income--why subsidize for the ability to "game the name" of the UC system?


I wish all these arguments would address the following issue: instead of cherry-picking UC grads who go on to public recognition (of various kinds), what about the vast majority of history and english (and related) majors--what are the outcomes for them, 10 or 20 years after graduation? Is undergraduate education at UC so terrific that we have no long-term studies of outcomes? Too good to measure or too mixed-up to discuss?

millard bunson

I'm pretty sure that while the Institution has a significant interest in maintaining its world class standing, the majority of kids who aren't getting in would be more than happy to have recieved a 'good' education, instead of NOT getting a world class education.

Paco Mexicana


Mexican immigrants should receive free tuition. We cannot afford to pay so the state should pay fo us. Why should college tuition be any differnet than other free services
like welfare, healthcare, food stamps, housing?


Paco Mexicana


Then give Mexicans and those that are unable to pay
free grants so we don't have to pay it back.





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