I write in response to your report of February 5, “UC Students Dig Deep to Stay Afloat,” which painted a deeply skewed and inaccurate picture of the University of California.
It is true that in our efforts to emerge intact from one of the worst recessions in California’s history, UC was forced to raise tuition while we absorbed nearly $1 billion in state cuts over the past five years. But increased tuition revenue closed only 38 percent of our budget shortfall. We bridged the remaining gap through lay-offs, hiring freezes, program cuts, increased efficiencies and other cost savings – and began recalibrating our educational model for the future.
One cut we did not make was to our financial aid program, which remains among the most generous and progressive in the nation. It is because of financial aid that fully half our undergraduates pay no tuition at all. And our “sticker price” of $12,192 for California residents did not increase this year and will remain the same for the coming academic year as well.
Nearly half of our graduates leave the university with no student loan debt and those who did borrow owe an average of $18,779 after graduation – well below the national average of $25,250. Moreover, most of our students graduate in just over four years, one of the best time-to degree rates in the country.
But the University of California, with its 10 campuses, five medical centers, 10 hospitals, and numerous research centers, serves more than undergraduate students. Despite the complexity of operating a system with an annual budget of $23 billion, the proportion of academic and non-academic staff has remained stable at UC since 1997-98 and includes the thousands of nurses, doctors, custodians, food service workers, and other staff who provide direct services to patients, students, faculty and the public. Funding for these positions increasingly comes not from the state, but directly from the research, medical centers and auxiliary enterprises.
On average, the salaries of UC faculty are 10 percent below market rates, and total compensation (salary plus benefits) lags 4 percent behind that at comparable public and private institutions. The largest compensation gap resides with our most senior managers whose salaries, on average, are about 22 percent lower than their counterparts elsewhere. Total compensation (salary plus benefits) for this group is approximately 14 percent below their peers. Incidentally, the president, chancellors and other senior leaders have received no pay increases over the past four years.
In the future, I trust the readers of Capitol Weekly will benefit from a more balanced and thoughtful look at the issues facing the University of California, which through shared sacrifice, has come through a rough passage with its fundamental principles intact. We have worked to preserve UC’s academic excellence, access, and affordability so that we may continue to provide California with a steady infusion of innovation and hope.
Senior Vice President
University of California Office of the President