‘We need a hard reset’: UC Berkeley hosts panel on challenges for next UC president

Brian Bi/Staff

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UC Board of Regents Chair John Pérez and UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ discussed the challenges facing the next UC president in a panel Wednesday.

Pérez and Christ agreed that finding solutions to funding questions should be a top priority for the next UC president. Both argued that a tuition increase will soon be necessary, with Pérez arguing in favor of a “cohort-based” tuition model, in which one-third of the increased funds from higher tuition would go toward creating financial aid.

“Unless we increase tuition, we’re not going to have the revenue to create affordability for students that are being squeezed out because of nontuition-related cost increases,” Pérez said at the panel.

Christ emphasized that the next UC president would also have to deal with the high demand for increased enrollment.

Christ added that this demand poses issues for campuses that are already “filled to overcrowding.” She also questioned the UC system’s ability to accommodate more students under current conditions.

“There is, it seems, an unending appetite of the legislature and indeed the people of the state of California for more places at the university,” Christ said at the panel. “And yet, there is not the appetite to build more campuses.”

Taking increased enrollment into account, Pérez and Christ discussed the importance of finding solutions for student housing. Both speakers emphasized the disadvantages of using public-private partnerships to build housing, proposing potential alternate solutions the next UC president could utilize.

Christ raised the possibility of building partnerships between the state of California and the UC system. Pérez added that campuses could use the state’s larger debt capacity to build student housing priced below market rates.

While discussing tuition increases and rising costs of attendance, Christ brought up the rising popularity of “free college” proposals.

“I think the slogan ‘free college’ is one of the most damaging political slogans right now,” Christ said. “There is no such thing (as free college) — the question is who pays.”

Pérez agreed, adding that legislators should be more “thoughtful” about the net cost of attending college when discussing “free college” proposals.

According to Pérez, proposals in California include offering students two free years of community college while also offering students two free years at a California State University school when transferring from a community college. Pérez noted, however, that these plans would only benefit full-time students, not part-time students, who have the “greatest amount of need.”

Pérez and Christ also stressed the difficulty and importance of increasing other forms of funding, including philanthropy and state investment. They added that improving the public image of the UC system would be key to securing this funding.

“We need a hard reset in our relationships — societally we have a decreased trust in institutions,” Pérez said at the panel. “The UC system over the last several years has had significant challenges in terms of its credibility and its relationship with stakeholders, the public and public officials.”

Alexandra Feldman is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.