THE BREAKDOWN: Commission on the Future

I would like to do a breakdown of what I think are the big recommendations that were put forth from the different workgroups today in the Commission on the Future, what they mean, and where they will go from here!

Size and Shape

The big recommendation here to look at is the one that increases the number and proportion of non-resident students in the University of California.  There are a couple of considerations with this proposal.  The first one is that the proposal asks that non-resident students should not displace funded resident students.  I’m not sure how that will be achieved, but yeah.  It’s definitely a good thought.  The second is that revenues for these things that are gained (approx 12k for every nonresident student) should stay within the core educational mission.  Yes.  Fosho.  They also propose a systemwide maximum and minimum, which is controversial because it may cause campuses to fight over the non-resident levels, giving some campuses a benefit of more nonresidents and other campuses as less.

There is significant concern about 1) whether you are displacing resident students and what that will mean for public support of the UC and 2) are you going to tier up the UCs, as we discover that some UC campuses are more popular for nonresidents, as other ones are.  I’m really worried about the second one, to be very very honest.  The first one is an issue too.

Currently, almost all of our campuses have nonresidents below 5%.  The exceptions are UCLA and UCB (~10%) and SD (6%).

Education and Curriclum

The big recommendations here are 1) pushing more students through the system faster (4 year tracks, and 3year possible degree), and 2) exploring the possibilities of complete online instruction.

Pushing more students through the system faster – So I actually really like this proposal.  The idea is that we need to make sure that we have enough classes available to let students graduate within four years.  And we need to improve our curriculum and academic advising to make that possible.  I think what’s not talked about is how this might actually increase costs (because more classes will need to be offered, academic advising will need to be boosted, etc.etc.).  But the point being – the more students we can move through the system within four years, the more students we can serve.  And I’m down with that. if 5%-10% students graduated a quarter/semester earlier (almost half of all UC students graduate over four years), we could open up 2000-4000 spots.  And I think that’s kinda big.

Of course, I think the reality is that this has to be achieved by better academic advising and retention for students, especially first-gen students, who are trying to graduate ontime but don’t have the support they need to make that happen.  Personal opinion.

Online Instruction – So the recommendation would have us start out with a pilot of around 40 classes, taught online.  We’d see the demand, effectiveness, etc.etc. of this pilot, and then see if we can take it to the next level.  There are significant pedagogical (quality of education) issues that arise here that have been talked about extensively.  Also, there’s some research that says that this might not improve cost savings for classes.  However – President Yudof and Dean Edley of Berkeley Law believe this is the future of education, and they want to move in that direction.   If possible, it would drastically increase the range of students that could be served by the UC at one time.  It might be a good entry point for students that will later transfer into a campus, etc.etc.  So some opportunities, a lot of questions raised, challenges brought up.

Access and Affordability

Access and Affordability is a fun group, not just saying that because one of the co-chairs is Jesse Bernal, Student Regent.  They have a lot of big recommendations, some of them opinions on other recommendations  by other workgroups.  For instance 1) they put an emphasis on serving CA residents over non-residents.  2) They pushed for financial aid for the middle income, and 3) rename the Education fee “tuition”, but keep the Registration fee seperate.  Their big recommendations, though, focus on 1) financial aid eligibility for undocumented California high school graduates (aka AB540 students), 2) a cohort-based fee structure.

Institutional Aid for AB540 Students – This is a big fight that’s been happening for a lot of years.  Currently undocumented students pay in-state tuition thanks for a state tuition exemption – however, they don’t get any financial aid for it.  They do pay into the financial aid pool, however, like all student do – 33% of all their fees go into a financial aid pool that everyone can tap except them.  In the past, the UC did give these students financial aid, until a federal law banned the practice (banned “public benefits”, UC financial aid counts in that) unless undocumented students were explicitly mentioned in state policy.  Yep.  So this proposal would simply mention that undocumented students are included in the financial aid policy for the UC – it wouldn’t give them anything special or anything, it’d just give them financial aid like the rest of us receive them.

Some myths about undocumented students – all of them are Latino.  This isn’t true at all – actually, 48% of the are Asian American.  Only 44% are Chicano/Latino.  So this is actually very much an API issue as well, and Asian Law Caucus today in public comment spoke to that.  Also, AB540 students don’t do well in school.  Actually, the average GPA of an undocumented student is higher than the student average – they enter college with a high school 3.84GPA, the average for all entering freshmen is 3.74.

Cohort-based Student Fees – The other big policy here is the idea of cohort based student fees.  This competes with a funding strategy proposal which suggests fixed student fee increases for every year.  Cohort based student fees would have you enter with a fee level your freshmen year, and then lock that fee level down for four years.  There might be a slight adjustment in your fees (like inflation or something), but overall it’d be predictable.  So your fees would be based on your entering cohort.  A couple issues with this – entering freshmen would be facing large fee increases every year when they entered, because student fees could only be leveled aganist around 30% of the student population, instead of 100% now.  Also, this would make it difficult to organize students against fee increases.

One of the interesting benefits of this brought up by Anteater Chancellor Drake (Irvine), is that this gives the UC good leverage against the State government.  When the state wants to cut the UC budget, thinking that we could make up the difference in student fees, it turns out we really can’t – because we only can raise fees on 30% of the student population. So our supposed ability to leverage our budgets on the backs of students is somewhat limited.  It’s an interesting point.

Funding Strategies

Also a really interesting workgroup – I wish I was on this one.  This has a huge barrel of recommendations – both short term and long term.  The big ones 1) advocacy campaign 2) indirect cost recovery 3) fixed student fees every year 4) enrollment of nonresident students 5) differential tuition by campus.  Okay.  Let’s go.

Advocacy Campaign – Pretty straightforward.  The public needs to be educated about how the UC is a public good and does great things for the state.  They wanna start by focusing on “opinion leaders” in the state.  I’m not sure how you designate someone like that – or effectively target those people, but yes, I definitely agree.  I think what’s curious in this proposal is not a strong mention of involvement or engagement of UC constituents, which I think are critical to this movement.  Just saying.  I mean, I’m sure they mean it.  But it’d be nice to see it too.

Indirect Cost Recovery – This is not straightforward at all – actually, I might have to do a seperate post completely about this.  Indirect cost recovery is how we make grants for research pay for the total cost of research.  They very often pay for direct costs, such as lab equipment and labor.  However, getting them to pay for electricity, gas fees, building usage (overhead), is a very different matter.  That amount of money which the grants would pay research for their overhead is actually negotiated every time there is a research grant.  So the grant people gather up their evidence, and our people gather up their evidence.  And we go at it.  We lose so much money in this.

UC is projected to be anywhere between 15-18% lower indirect cost recovery rates than our competitors.  We currently rake in 780m dollars with this – we could be getting as much as 1.5billion (research strategies group).  If we effectively engage on this, we could get around a jump of 100m a year on this.  This is the main recommendation of the research strategies group as well, so you can count this recommendation for both groups.

Fixed Student Fee Levels – To be completely real, I’m kinda really against this thought.  But it was presented, so we’re going to give it a go.  So the projections are given – with 5% increases every year, for the next five years we would generate 445m dollars.  10% increases (considered moderate increases, but as Regent Lozano said, these are actually quite a lot), it’d go around 983m dollars over five years.  With 15%, we’re talking around 1.63b in five years.  Okay.  But we should also look at this – in five years, our budget gap will be 4.9b dollars.  Even with the most aggressive fee increases (and these are agressive – with 15%, in five years, our fees would be 20K) we’d still be over 3billion short.

So.  I’m just saying.  20K is a lot of money to one middle-class family.  And in context, 1.63billion to 4.9 billion…is not as much.  But still considerable.  but I mean.  yeah.

Increase enrollment in nonresidents – Yeah, we discussed this in size and shape – it’s a very similar proposal, without the statement that they don’t wanna see resident students not displaced.  Could generate anywhere from 98m-174m, depending on what model you’re looking at.  But also.  In five years, your budget gap will be 4.9billion dollars. 174million is not that much.  but it’s something.

Differential Tuition by Campus – Again, another idea I kinda disagree with highly.  This idea would allow campuses at 25% range where they could increase their tuition by how selective they are.  So UCB and UCLA would have the highest tuition, followed by Irvine, Davis, SD, SB, and then lowest would be Merced, Santa Cruz, and Riverside.  So, it’s not actually predicted to generate very much money – however, the issue is argued that it could be a mechanism used if fee increases show that enrollment is hurt in these campuses.  They would like to think of it as a fee reduction for some campuses, rather than an increase.

Concerns here are they would tier up the UCs, making some of them “better” and others “not good”.  It would break up the strength of the system of 10 campuses.  So again, very controversial.  Also, it’d be hard to stop all the campuses from charging as much as they could, so it would revert back into a fee increase.

Research Strategies

The big one here is indirect cost recovery…which I talked about before in Funding Strategies.  A lot of those two paragraphs were actually from Research Strategies, so I think referencing that paragraph for both working groups is legit.

I hope that helps everyone with their understanding of what recommendations would be presented today!  What the plan is – these recommendations will go out to constituent groups, like the students, faculty, staff – and then sent back with statements.  At some point, the commission will decide what to do with these recommendations – whether to put them to the Board of Regents or just enact them through UCOP.  Most of them will need political will to continue surviving beyond the CoTF – so if you have a recommendation you especially like, please let the student regents know!!  Or, leave it in the comments, we read those too!


One response to “THE BREAKDOWN: Commission on the Future

  1. Thanks for the rundown. I have to comment on the Indirect Cost Recovery section, though. I work in Research Administration, so I have to deal with indirect costs (aka Facilities & Administrative costs–the term used by the federal government) every day. I haven’t read the recommendations, but wanted to correct you on the negotiating part–negotiations for the F&A rate for each campus are done about every 3 years, between the campus and one of two federal agencies–Health and Human Services, or Office of Naval Research. For grants coming from federal agencies (NIH, NSF, DOE…a really big part of the UC research budget), the campus uses their regular F&A rate. There are exceptions, but a basic NIH research grant will have the campus’ F&A rate, though there are certain costs you can’t charge F&A on (grad student tuition, equipment (which is something over $5,000)).

    It’s when you get to non-profit agencies where there is more haggling over F&A. A lot of non-profits don’t want to pay for any of these costs, or they put a cap on what percent of the direct costs of a grant that they will pay F&A on. Let’s say 10%. For a federal award with direct research costs of 100k/year, none of which are excluded from F&A, if a campus’ F&A rate is 50%, they’d get 50k in F&A (if only things were this easy). But for a non-profit with a cap of 10%, they’ll only pay $10/k in indirect costs. Are there still the same amount of indirect costs associated with that research project? Yep, but because the campus has agreed to accepting this award, they’ll be getting much less in indirect costs recovery.

    Sorry to bore everyone to death!

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