UC Berkeley’s drop in ranking tied to administrative spending

letter to the editor
Willow Yang/File

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It is enlightening to juxtapose UC Berkeley administration’s recent call for more revenue with our slipping in rankings with respect to UCLA. Will the additional faculty burden of generating extra revenue streams further impact our university’s ability to stay ahead of the competition in terms of our excellence in undergraduate teaching and research?

Our recent history might provide a perspective. UC Berkeley increased its revenue from $2.2 billion in 2011 to $2.6 billion in 2016. Unfortunately, spending increased to $2.7 billion. A large fraction of that increased spending went to central campus administration. This continues a decades-long trend where faculty numbers have remained flat all while administrative expenses have grown extravagantly. The bucket leaks while we struggle to keep it filled.

To be sure, central campus provides critical services. Some examples include admissions, which consumes roughly $4 million in salary, the registrar’s office which consumes about $2 million and mental health services which consumes about $4 million, as of 2015. For comparison purposes, the combined chancellor’s and vice chancellor’s offices, of which we have many, spend roughly $34 million, of which salary comprises nearly $20 million. The numbers are according to publicly available financial records.

Total wages (which includes benefits) are roughly $1.6 billion at Berkeley. So where does the rest of that compensation go? Academic senate faculty wages and benefits consume just 18 percent of total compensation expense. The hole in the bucket is not small!

In light of the rise of UCLA to the No. 1 public university club, it is worth noting that UCLA’s administration appears to consume a significantly smaller slice of their pie, according to federal data. If UC Berkeley were as efficient as UCLA, we could easily add 100 faculty to campus today … several times over.

Another perspective on all this is that our internationally top-ranked academic departments have stagnated in size, while our central administration, whose services are ranked in the bottom 20 out 382 colleges by the Princeton Review, have been exploding. Filling the leaky bucket may help hide the problem for a while but only with further damage to our excellence.


Satish Rao is a professor at UC Berkeley.

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  • Kurt VanderKoi

    Best Value Colleges in California (see College ROI Report with SUPPORTING DETAIL)
    1. Harvey Mudd College(Private) 20 Year Net ROI $962,000
    2. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)(Private) 20 Year Net ROI $864,000
    3. California State University, Maritime (CSUM)(In-State)20 Year Net ROI $826,000
    4. California State University, Maritime (CSUM)(Out-of-State)20 Year Net ROI $781,000
    5. Stanford University(Private)20 Year Net ROI $761,000
    6. University of California – Berkeley(In-State)20 Year Net ROI $732,000
    7. California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) – San Luis Obispo(In-State)20 Year Net ROI$678,000
    8. University of California – Berkeley(Out-of-State) 20 Year Net ROI $638,000
    9. California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) – San Luis Obispo(Out-of-State)20 Year Net ROI $633,000

  • Charlie Chan

    A friend from UC Berkeley told me about this (Not News) news item.

    I am currently a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student and a former UC Berkeley freshman.

    UC Berkeley creates too many barriers for students to gain entry into Computer Science:
    – Many of the lower division classes I needed for computer science were either filled to capacity or closed.
    – GPA admission requirement have recently been increased.

    I transferred to Cal Poly and have not been disappointed:
    – Cal Poly’s CS classes have less than 40 people, while at UC Berkeley the number tends to be well over 100.
    – Employers seem to like Cal Poly students a little more (than UC Berkeley students, for example), because Cal Poly students learn by doing.
    – Every person I talked with has had (seniors) or will have (juniors) an internship done/lined up for the summer after junior year.
    – All of the seniors I talk with have a full time offer or plan to make a startup after they graduate.

    CalPoly SLO has a very good reputation in engineering. It does not have the research chops of the grad school at UCB, but the reputation of the undergrad education is actually better. (UCB has a reputation for underserving the undergrads in engineering, because all the faculty time is taken up with the large number of grad students.)

  • We need to ban hate speech on campus, it’s too costly. We’re spending millions on security for white supremacists to speak on campus. What we need to do is allow sensible liberal speakers only. That’ll save us a few million, wasteful spending won’t be an issue.

    • Marilyn Lugo

      How can you define “sensible”?

      • zzz

        He’s being ironic.

        • Marilyn Lugo

          it’s getting so crazy that I’ve lost my sense of humor

          • zzz

            It’s hard to tell these days, liberals were all for free speech when it was the establishment attacking communism, where they are the establishment those free speech ideals a re out the window. So they often sound like parody.

      • Sensible = anything left-wing.

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          OR don’t protest Ben Shaprio who is not a white supremacists in anyway and it makes you look stupid to others who actually know things just FYI.

          • Ben Shapiro is nazi scum

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Ok, so you know nothing, he’s an orthodox Jew and was the #1 target on social media by the Alt-Right last year? You are either so disillusioned or just like trolling with your delusion which just confuses normal people like myself and makes your username look stupid.

          • He’s a white supremacist

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Berkeley is the laughing stock of the country right now, I guess that doesn’t mean much to you. I’m glad your a never thinker!

          • UC Berkeley is actually consistently ranked the #1 public university in the world! What you’re saying is hogwash.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            yea, and right now they are the acting like children. The two aren’t mutually exclusive and that ranking is not because of what they have done in the past decade, it’s in spite of it. Not to mention thank the lord you guys are located near Silicon Valley or you guys would be long gone at #1 or great post graduate programs. None the less, they are the laughing stock of half the country whatever you think so that’s cool that your emotions and thoughts don’t change the facts and situation.

          • Well most students I’ve talked to on campus agree Shapiro is a white supremacist. He said blacks aren’t victims of institutional racism and that their culture is to blame for the current level of poverty in black america. And yeah, our rankings may be falling (UCLA actually took our #1 spot recently) but they, along with other schools, aren’t at the forefront of progressive politics, social justice and real change like we are. If we get dinged in the rankings while we fight off nazis, then so be it. Rankings are chump change compared to our mission now. There’s a white supremacist in the white house and his neo-nazi goons are using this campus as a battleground; we can’t allow them to spread their fascist ideas. #SorryNotSorry #Resist

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Well I’m not going to debate you when you are obviously wired very different than I am. Good Luck with your racial resistance.
            I challenge you to take 10 minutes out of your day to watch these two videos and just try to see what the other side thinks and feels rather than just calling them racists and bigots regarding the democratic party and race. It will be go either way to know what most of the other side truly thinks.


          • I’ll watch your videos, but let’s be honest here, most republicans are old racist white people.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            Cool, I appreciate that, I’m really curious what you think about the videos. I definitely agree with you especially in congress, lol. I consider myself a conservative that holds classical liberal social values, I didn’t back Trump but did back Romney.

          • SecludedCompoundTTYS

            He’s more of an Asian/White supremacist if you’re going with that logic.

        • SecludedCompoundTTYS

          I guess you are being sarcastic or are just really dense…

  • Great points.

  • Abby Johnson

    We spend millions on security for Alt-Right speakers, who aren’t even Californians. They are fleecing California to generate publicity for “conquering” Berkeley, and increasing book sales.

    • s randall

      We really had no choice on “hosting” those speakers. I think Chancellor Christ is doing what she has to.

      The administrative spending that Professor Rao wrote about is something we really need to do something about. If it’s tied to fundraising, then we have to do what we have to do. I don’t think it’s all fundraising though.

    • zzz

      As a Californian I would prefer that man baby Californians stop rioting.

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      Ben Shapiro is from CA and it cost $600K to protect him from violent protesters when anyone with a brain who has listened to his show or watched his you tube videos know he is a normal conservative and far fetched at all. I am confused why you don’t care about the people who they are spending the $600K on aka Antifa and other violent left wing extremists. I guarantee you know nothing about Ben Shapiro and just heard his name lately.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    It’s all about generating revenue streams now, isn’t it? So much for the public good.

    • diogenes

      And so much for lux (as in fiat).