UC President Mark Yudof spoke at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday, answering questions about his tenure as president and the complicated problems that public higher education has faced in recent years.
Yudof, who is set to step down in August after almost five years in office, leaves behind a mixed legacy including both tuition increases and improvements to financial aid programs. Only months after taking office, Yudof faced a plunging economy and harsh statewide cuts to the UC system.
Tuesday’s event was part of a speaker series on California’s future and was organized by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy research institution.
Among the several topics discussed at the event, Yudof addressed his relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown, the challenge of delineating responsibilities between individual UC campuses and the UC Office of the President and most importantly, he said, the burdensome pension obligations that affect the UC system’s finances.
“There are many challenges facing higher education,” Yudof said. “The first is, of course, financial issues and the budget.”
He also addressed what he considers other pressing issues, including the fact that the UC system should be enrolling 30,000 more students than it currently does while also providing more opportunities for low-income and underrepresented students.
These problems do not have simple solutions, Yudof said. He noted that reforming the UC’s pension system and increasing graduation and transfer rates are multifaceted issues that require an executive.
Yudof also talked about the role of online education in the UC system, tentatively proposing a program in which students rejected from the university could take a year of online courses with the intent of transferring. But this would have its own set of financial aid implications for students who cannot afford computers, Yudof said — another example of the complexity of improving educational outcomes.
His advice to the next UC president, who has not yet been selected, was to continue searching for nonstate sources of funding and, more importantly, to understand how to work with the other regents and chancellors of the university.
Finding any remedy was only “10 percent of the solution,” Yudof said. “The other 90 percent is selling it to people.”
He also lent his own advice to incoming students.
“Study what interests you,” Yudof said. “Make sure you call your parents at least once a week. Find a subset of people on campus who share your interests, because universities can be large. They will help you keep your sense of belonging.”