UC Board of Regents discusses value of UC degrees, COVID-19 in UC Health system

At a virtual UC Board of Regents meeting Thursday, the regents heard a report on “Beyond Economic Impact: Understanding Societal Impacts and Public Value of a UC Degree." The report indicated that the UC system has a large impact on California's economy, with the system being the state's third-largest employer.

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The UC Board of Regents met virtually Thursday to hear public comment, review a report on the value of UC degrees and discuss COVID-19 case numbers in the UC health care system.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, many individuals called in to raise their concerns. The majority of the callers were activists against the UC system’s investment in the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea or members of the Council of UC Staff Assemblies proposing salary increases for policy-covered employees.

Following public comment, the regents heard a report on “Beyond Economic Impact: Understanding Societal Impacts and Public Value of a UC Degree,” presented by UC Vice President of Institutional Research and Academic Planning Pamela Brown.

The report found that UC campuses substantially impact the California economy. For every dollar the UC system receives in state support, it generates $21.04 in economic output, and overall, the UC generated approximately $82 billion in economic activity per year, according to the report. The UC system is also the third-largest employer in the state, providing one in 45 jobs in California.

The report also found that the UC system advances intergenerational mobility, as the majority of UC Pell Grant recipients go on to earn more than their parents within five years, and the majority of first-generation students do so in seven years. Brown added that UC graduates donate to charity at more than double the national average and are more likely to vote than other similarly-aged California residents.

“Beyond the knowledge produced by the university and the knowledge it disseminates, there is more to a great public university’s impact than merely — or even exclusively — economic measures,” said Michael Brown, UC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, during the meeting. “It represents a shared, collective and tangible sense of hope and opportunity — that is what is embedded in the California dream.”

The regents then heard about the impact of COVID-19 on the UC health system in a presentation by Carrie Byington, executive vice president of UC Health. According to Byington, there was an “enormous” surge in January that peaked at 806 inpatients in the UC health system, which has since fallen to 178, similar to the numbers from last summer.

Byington added that due to vaccinations, there is now herd immunity amongst UC health care workers, with 85% fully vaccinated and the number of positive tests under 1%.

“This March marks the one-year anniversary of the pandemic across the United States,” Byington said during the meeting. “As of March 2021, we are in a much more hopeful place than we were in March 2020.”

Lauren Good is a higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @lgooddailycal.