Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Revolt at the University of California?

This article surprised me.  According to the LA Times, the UC Regents are not meeting this week because of fear of violence as OWS has created a license for some folks to roar.

The facts are simple.  The State of California has sharply reduced its funding of the University of California.  The UC is ambitious and wants to remain excellent so it must collect $ from somewhere.  One source is China and one source is grants.  The Federal Grant overhead will decline sharply as the NSF and NIH and NIA are cutback in the new round of federal budget deficit negotiations.

So, student fees are a logical place to look for more $.  Is UCLA expensive?  Not relative to the Ivy League.  Many of our UCLA students are transfers who have spent 2 years at a community college so they have effectively reduced their price of college by 30%.   The President of the UC needs to allow each campus to set its own tuition.  In this case, there would be expensive campuses such as UCLA and Berkeley and much cheaper campuses.  Students on a tight budget would have a menu to choose from to tradeoff price and quality.  You could spend 2 years at a community college and 2 years at UC Riverside.   I believe that the total tuition for this 4 year education would be relatively low.

There needs to be a more honest discussion of differences in quality across the UC campuses.  In capitalism, price and quality tend to be positively correlated but this is not the case at the current University of California.

The faculty at UCLA want to see a credible commitment to excellence.  We want to see clear signals that the University will remain great.  Concern that it won't could trigger the equivalent of a bank run as talent walks away to other schools.  The students should be careful for what they wish for because both quality and tuition would decline.  You get what you pay for.