Vote may determine UCLA business school’s departure from public funding

Anna Vignet/Senior Staff

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A proposal that would allow the UCLA Anderson School of Management to move away from public funding will be voted on next Thursday, raising concerns about the possible privatization of other UC graduate programs.

The Legislative Assembly of the Academic Senate, Los Angeles Division, will vote next Thursday on the proposal, which would make the business school’s full-time Master of Business Administration program “self-sustaining.” If the proposal passes, it will be submitted to the university-wide Academic Senate and UC Office of the President for further review.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said in an email that professional schools like Anderson could benefit from altering their relationship with state funding and that the proposed shift would make Anderson a hybrid of public and private university models.

“(T)he proposed self-supporting MBA degree remains congruent with the mission of the University: a focus and commitment to the creation and application of knowledge to better the lives and well-being of those around us,” reads the proposal. “The self-supporting MBA program will be identical to the current state-supported program.”

However, according to Hans Johnson, senior policy fellow and Bren fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, the move shows that state public higher education is suffering, leaving graduate schools to pursue some dramatic options in order to protect themselves.

“(If a school stops using public funds), it won’t necessarily need to respond to public concerns,” Johnson said. “Access could become an issue. Public institutions have a charge to serve as many students as they can. Private institutions don’t.”

UCLA’s Graduate Council — the equivalent of the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly — voiced similar concerns about access for nontraditional students, though Anderson representatives have responded by saying that most of the school’s students are nontraditional because they typically work for several years before enrolling.

If the Anderson proposal moves forward, it could lead other UC graduate programs to attempt to privatize, according to Johnson.

When the proposal first gained steam in 2010, Dean of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business Rich Lyons said that Haas was not planning a similar move. According to Haas Media Relations Manager Pamela Tom, that position has not changed.

In a press release, Lyons does acknowledge that the Anderson proposal raises the question of whether Haas should make its full-time MBA program self-sustaining to match its part-time programs. In 2010, about 20 percent of the Haas budget was public funds, according to Lyons.

Despite the criticisms, Suzanne Shu, an assistant professor at the Anderson school, said she believes making the program self-sustaining would allow Anderson to compete with top business schools like Yale, Harvard and Stanford. This year, US News and World Report ranked Haas 7th and Anderson 15th among the nation’s graduate business schools.

“Gaining full control of our resources would allow Anderson to be seen in the same light as those other schools,” Shu said. “It sends a signal to prospective students that we’re competing with those private schools.”

Regardless of the possible benefits of moving away from public funding, Johnson cautions against viewing the change as a positive one.

“For the state, it’s students and even the state’s economy, no outcome (in going private) will lead to more opportunity or greater economic growth for state,” he said.

Christopher Yee is an assistant news editor.