2018 UC Accountability Report shows high enrollment despite low state funding

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The 2018 UC Accountability Report demonstrates the UC system’s progress toward its goals of increasing student populations, despite decreased state funding.

The report looks at past records to examine where the UC system is in meeting its goals and to anticipate future challenges. According to the report, one of the UC’s “highest priorities” is to give every qualified Californian an affordable college education and guarantee admission to state resident applicants who rank in the top nine percent of their high school graduating classes.

“Beginning in fall 2016, UC committed to increasing our enrollment of California resident undergraduate students by 10,000 over three years,” said UC Office of the President spokesperson Danielle Smith in an email. “More California undergraduates are currently enrolled at UC than at any point in its history, and after last year’s enrollment jump of some 5,000 California students, the university anticipates it will have far surpassed its goal.”

The report analyzes the significant decrease in the UC system’s state funding since 1996 — a reality that has made serving its increasing student population difficult. In the academic year of 1996-97, the UC received 8.1 percent of the state’s general funds to finance its operations, but in 2016-17, it only received 2.5 percent. In inflation-adjusted raw numbers, the UC received $4.3 billion in 2001 to 2016’s $3.3 billion.

“State funds used to be the largest single source of support for the university, but cuts in state funding have reduced this resource significantly,” Smith said in an email. “UC today educates 90,000 more students than we did in the year 2000, while state appropriations have remained flat.”

As a result, the UC now receives a higher proportion of its revenue from student tuition than from the state, according to the report. Whereas in 2000, state educational funding, or “appropriations,” made up 24 percent of the budget while student tuition contributed 8 percent, in 2016, student tuition made up 14 percent of the budget while state funding made up 10 percent.

UC revenue per student has also declined by 31.8 percent, from more than $35,000 to less than $25,000, the report states. Even while per-student revenue fell, the UC made an inflation-adjusted $3 billion more from student tuition and fees than it did in 2000, totaling $4.5 billion.

“This decline in state support has been offset in part by additional revenues from student tuition and fees from both enrollment growth and increased rates,” Smith said in an email, adding that the only enrollment rate holding steady is that of nonresident students, for whom UC Regents adopted an enrollment cap in 2017.

The increasing number of students, however, strains UC resources for instruction, advising, housing and other services, causing the UC to invest more into student services, the report said. For example, there has been an increase in hiring lecturers — who do not do research — as faculty in order to meet growing instructional needs.

Jason Constantouros, senior fiscal and policy analyst from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, or LAO, a nonpartisan budget advisory agency affiliated with the California State Legislature, further points to the 2011 fiscal state budget as a cause for decreased funding. The state budget decision that year reduced both CSU and UC funding by $1.4 billion, according to an LAO document titled “2011-12 California Spending Plan.”

“The reductions were part of a broader set of actions taken across multiple state agencies to eliminate a deficit in the state budget,” Constantouros said in an email.

The report also confirms that the state’s funding proportion in UC revenue calculations fell by 2011, costs that were offset via funds gained through the UC medical centers as well as student tuition and fees. Student tuition and fees, in particular, increased two percent in proportion to the budget the year after state funding fell and has held steady since.

The new plan for 2018 has increased state funding for the UC and allowed for the postponement of a tuition increase, according to Smith.

“We look forward to continuing to partner with our elected leaders to secure ongoing funding that will ensure today’s students receive the same excellent UC education as did past generations,” Smith said in an email.

Contact Yao Huang and Anna Ho at [email protected].