By signing off on a proposal to make UCLA’s full-time graduate MBA program self-supporting, UC President Mark Yudof has given up on the dream for the University of California to remain a public university supported by the state.
Last month, Yudof approved the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s proposal to be primarily covered by student tuition. This is the sixth program at the Anderson School that has become self-supporting.
Yudof’s decision came with a number of conditions, including that the program cannot use state funds or tuition from students in other programs and that financial aid should continue to be provided to eligible students. Yudof also said the Anderson School and the degree programs it contains should retain the characteristics of the “great public research university” that is the University of California.
But this decision raises a few alarming concerns that puts the public mission the UC system was founded upon to the test.
The state currently provides for less than 21 percent of the entire Anderson School budget, according to the school’s website. For every $1 in graduate research funding provided by the state, the UC secures $7 more in federal and private dollars, according to a June UC press release. This is representative of a wider trend in which more and more UC graduate schools are finding alternative ways to fund themselves.
If UC graduate schools continue having to become self-funded or privately funded, there will be a higher incentive to break off and seek increased independence from the UC system in nonfinancial ways as well. One example of this was UC San Francisco Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s January 2012 proposal to allow the campus higher financial and governing autonomy from the university following similar efforts from other UC professional schools. Her proposal was approved in the form of a UCSF advisory board, which granted Desmond-Hellmann more autonomy over the campus.
In becoming self-supporting, the Anderson School administration should ensure current tuition levels remain the same. The administration has promised that tuition levels will stay at current levels for the coming school year, but what’s to say it won’t increase further down the line? Even if the state is providing no money to students, the school has a responsibility to students to keep tuition as low as possible.
Making the Anderson School self-sufficient is revealing of a larger net the university has been snagged in. Though state lawmakers continue to tout the California Master Plan as the backbone of California, state funding to the UC and CSU systems has drastically decreased in recent years. The master plan is a beautiful ideal, but the state needs to recognize the funding necessary for that ideal when putting together the budget each year.
Without more stipulations and criteria for future programs aiming to be self-sufficient, we’re on a crash course to becoming a fully privatized university.