The University of California enrolls more low-income students than any other leading research university in the United States.
Even more impressive: UC's strong financial aid program has shielded low-income undergraduates from the brunt of recent tuition increases.
In fact, low-income students pay less for a UC education today than they did six years ago, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Provost Aimée Dorr will present those and other findings from the University's annual Accountability Report when the UC Board of Regents meets later this week at UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus.
President Mark G. Yudof initiated the annual report in 2008 as a tool for improving transparency and accountability. It measures how well the University is doing on key performance indicators and provides valuable trend data on issues related to teaching, research and public service.
"The data reflect what we hear anecdotally. UC continues to do a tremendous job at ensuring affordability and access, especially for financially disadvantaged students," Dorr said. "But we also see clear evidence that state budget cuts are starting to impact quality."
Most notably, the number of ladder-rank faculty has declined over the past two years, as UC campuses, pinched by state cutbacks, have limited hiring while the number of faculty retirements and other departures has held steady.
Other quality measures also show the budgetary strain facing the ten-campus UC system:
- Teaching loads are increasing for Academic Senate faculty, a reflection of increasing student enrollment coupled with reductions in faculty hiring.
- Faculty salaries lag behind comparator research universities, and the gap in pay is getting wider between UC and top private research universities.
- UC faces increasing competition in recruiting and retaining high-caliber faculty, a challenge that is compounded by lower salaries.
State appropriations for UC have fallen by 27 percent since 2008-2009, or roughly $900 million.
With another year of fiscal uncertainty looming, the Regents will participate in a daylong retreat on Wednesday to discuss strategies for coping with a projected budget shortfall that could reach as high as $2.9 billion in five years.
Dozens of cost-saving ideas will be on the table, including many suggestions from student leaders.
Dorr will use data from the Accountability Report to lead a discussion on how UC is doing on its benchmarks for quality.
UC needs to address its budget crisis in a way that preserves and upholds UC's status as a world-class research university, she said. That means finding the resources to employ outstanding faculty and staff; recruit high performing students; and maintain an environment that fosters robust research and scholarship.
"The real threat to the University of California is not on (student) access, and it's not on affordability. It's on quality," Dorr said.
Many people would be surprised to know that state appropriations have fallen to such an extent that they now account for just 11 percent of UC's budget for the entire system of 10 campuses, five medical centers and numerous research facilities, she said. Yet those funds — together with tuition — are one of the few sources that UC can tap to pay for its essential educational mission.
"Right now, there are very few ways we can replace those core funds," Dorr said. "People say, ‘just raise more money'; they don't understand that most fund sources have constraints."
That gives state funding critical importance when it comes to things like faculty hiring and other expenditures that are key to maintaining UC quality, Dorr said.
"More Californians are beginning to understand that our funding problems come from Sacramento," Dorr said. "If the university is going to continue to be the outstanding higher education institution the state deserves and needs, the state needs to join with UC and many others to make that possible."
2012 UC Accountability Report Key Points
State budget reductions
- Between 2001-2002 and 2010-2011, state appropriations fell from 23 percent of UC's revenues to 12 percent. During the same 10-year period, UC undergraduate enrollment increased 21 percent.
- Student tuition and fee increases have only mitigated about 39 percent of the budget gap since 2008-09. Campuses have absorbed the remaining shortfall through program cuts, hiring freezes and other measures.
- Despite state funding cuts, admission to at least one UC campus is still offered to all qualified California students.
- Applications to UC have doubled over the past 17 years, while enrollment has grown 59 percent.
- The inflation-adjusted net cost paid by low-income students for their UC education is lower than it was in 2004-05, primarily due to UC's strong financial aid programs.
- Net cost to students from middle- and upper-income families has increased and debt at graduation, while still lower than at comparable universities, is rising.
Impact on Faculty
- Faculty separations are outpacing new hires.
- Faculty compensation lags behind UC's competitors.
- Faculty teaching and advising workload is increasing.
- Due to numbers of older faculty, UC in the years ahead will need to hire many faculty, but could face difficulty in making competitive offers.