UC: Public or Private?

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    Illustration by Christine Hipp.

    At a meeting this past October, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal told student media that UCSC was more of a “state-augmented” school, as UC students are now paying as much for their UC education as the state is.

    Some take issue with the UC’s tuition hike strategy; an “Occupy Education” march is planned for Nov. 16 at UCSF to protest further fee hikes. At the heart of this debate is a question over what the UC really is — can it still call itself a public university with students footing so much of the bill?

    Regardless of how one feels about education in California, the UC system is slowly losing the state support that brought about its inception. The UC Board of Regents — Richard Blum, specifically — said at a planning session in September that negotiating with Sacramento for more support is “a waste of our time.” In the 2009-10 academic year, the UC received 13 percent of its operating budget from the state and 12 percent from student fees. The latter is rising to be on par with state expenditure.

    With this in mind, those involved in the day-to-day administration of the UC system are looking for benefactors outside of the governor’s office in Sacramento. At the September planning session, Blum said he thinks the UC system should be negotiating with those “who actually can write a check — Chevron, Apple, Cisco and Google — all those companies sitting on money they don’t know what to do with.”

    Some students at UCSC feel apprehensive about the regents’ decision to petition the private sector.

    “While I think it is good the regents are finally looking at alternate forms of revenue and finally doing something to address the lack of funding from Sacramento, I think we need to take a closer, critical look at what exactly they intend to do,” said SUA external vice chair Nelson Cortez. “Privatization of the university is not acceptable and won’t be tolerated by students. This is why students must be involved with the process and this is why the regents must be transparent with their actions.”

    With California hobbled by the financial crisis crippling the nation as a whole, the UC regents have made it clear to the public that they feel other options like private sector funding have to be explored if the UC system is to survive and retain its essential character as an accessible institution.

    “It’s frustrating that, though last year was great in terms of lobbying in Sacramento to bring the issue forward, at the end of the day higher education cuts were devastating,” Blumenthal said. “We have to do better, or we have to find alternatives.”

    Looking at the UC now, the system already receives sizable amounts of private funding. The question arises, then: If the UC receives private aid already, and students are paying record highs for tuition — just over $12,000 a year currently — where can the UC system turn to solve its budget issues?

    Private Investment in the UC

    The UC system as a whole received $1.35 billion from the private sector for the 2009-10 fiscal year. For some perspective, the operating costs for the UC system tend to be around $20 billion per year, with state funding, student tuition and a variety of other sources filling in the rest of that funding gap.

    With the exception of the 2007-08 fiscal year, in which the UC received over $1.6 billion, the amount donated to the university by the private sector remains fairly constant. Most philanthropic endeavors tend to be targeted at specific UCs.

    “When it comes to private philanthropy, most of that funding is given to the UC [in question] directly,” said Dianne Klein, media specialist for the University of California Office of the President. “Right now, though, we’re placing a greater emphasis on giving to the university [system] as a whole.”

    A large amount of private sector funding goes to the UCs that have medical centers, like UCLA. For those UCs, donations to their medical centers can account for almost half of all private sector aid they receive.

    Personal connections to the UC have some impact on where donations go, according to Klein.

    “If somebody was treated at one of our medical centers and they feel really grateful, then they’d donate specifically to that medical center,” Klein said.

    Still, private funding for the UC system goes to a variety of departments, from arts endowments to engineering research funds and faculty positions. The fields this money is allocated to are still restricted, however. Only about 2 percent of private funds given to UC are allowed to be spent at the university’s discretion.

    “We’re hoping to raise more for scholarships,” said Klein, unknowingly echoing Chancellor Blumenthal’s sentiment that he would “prefer undesignated [funds], but from a student perspective, having lots of money in scholarships is a good thing.”

    Illustration by Christine Hipp.

    Private Aid at UCSC

    At UC Santa Cruz, private investment has made its presence felt in numerous ways. Jack Baskin Engineering itself is a cornerstone of philanthropic support at UCSC.

    “Jack Baskin is a large supporter of the university, but he’s not an alum,” said Shayna Kent, alumni outreach coordinator at UCSC. “He met the chancellor and they had a connection. Some people just have general passions.”

    Baskin, who has donated about $7 million to the engineering school at UCSC since 1983, helped launch the computer engineering program. Of that $7 million, $5 million was donated in 1997 to found the Jack Baskin School of Engineering.

    Internships represent another convergence of private sector interests and public education.

    “Internships provide students an opportunity to learn on-the-job skills while providing employers the opportunity to get to know a potential employee,” said Barbara Silverthorne, director of the Career Center at UCSC. “I welcome collaboration with the private sector with the goal of placing students in professional internships and jobs in their field of interest.”

    Silverthorne said engaging employers with the UC system is increasingly important to fostering increased cooperation between the private sector and the UC.

    “Due to the competitive job market, the Career Center is working harder than ever to engage a variety of private and public sector employers with on-campus recruitment activities,” Silverthorne said. “The Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP) is an example of an internship program which is made possible through matching funds provided through non-state and non-tuition sources.”

    More recently, programs and focuses like Jewish studies and Sikh and Punjabi studies have been made possible and expanded by the work of philanthropic groups and foundations.

    “Because of private investment and donations, Jewish studies has been able to add courses to the curriculum that would have otherwise not been offered through the normal course of the year,” said Stephanie Sawyer, an undergraduate program coordinator in the history department at UCSC, citing the addition of a course on modern Jewish history in Latin America, taught by Paula Daccarett.

    Though hardly unique in the type of aid it receives, the Jewish studies program at UCSC is notable for how much it has expanded with the aid of private investment.

    The Jewish studies program at UC Santa Cruz has been assisted by a variety of private sources, including the establishment of the Helen Diller Family Endowment and the Neufeld-Levin Holocaust Endowed Chair, as well as grants from private foundations and gifts from individual donors, according to Nathaniel Deutsch, co-director of the Center for Jewish Studies at UCSC.

    “Without this support, our program would be smaller and we would not be able to meet the large student demand for our courses,” Deutsch said.

    Sikh and Punjabi studies consists of an endowed faculty position and is paid for by the Sarbjit Singh Aurora fund, an external source of aid.

    “It’s a good fit here,” said William Ladusaw, dean of humanities at UCSC. “Universities have always depended upon private philanthropy to enhance their programs and undertake new initiatives.”

    Ladusaw remains less optimistic about the possibility of private aid supplanting state support, but hopes the plight of the UC system has raised awareness of the need for such aid.

    “In my experience, relatively few people are motivated to make donations simply to replace lost state funds,” Ladusaw said. “But the financial crisis for state universities has certainly raised the visibility of the need  for scholarships and fellowships that can help address concerns about access and affordability.”

    Outreach

    The case of Sikh and Punjabi studies notwithstanding, the UC system isn’t always approached with windfall offers of financial assistance. Some outreach to potential investors is often needed.

    “The UC system as a whole regularly promotes the value of the 10-campus system to the state of California,” said Lynne Stoops, executive director of strategic philanthropy and foundation relations at UCSC. “This is intended to help tell the UC story to state legislators, whose support the university badly needs. But it also has the effect of helping tell the UC story to the general public.”

    Stoops said the failure of the state to provide adequately for the UC system increases the need for these outreach efforts.

    “Given the state’s declining commitment to California’s highly regarded system of public higher education, those communication efforts are increasingly vital,” Stoops said. “In these difficult times, their generosity is critical to maintaining student access to UCSC. Support from individuals and foundations is absolutely essential if we are going to maintain the quality of the campus and student access to that quality.”

    Ultimately, the goal of outreach programs at the UC is to prove long-term value to the private sector.

    “In contributing to the campus they are also making a contribution to the long-term social and economic health of this state by providing educational opportunities to its citizens,” Stoops said.

    Alumni outreach coordinator Shayna Kent also believes it’s important to educate people on the value of higher education.

    “It’s not just fundraising — you have to educate people on why it’s important to give back,” she said. “It’s about educating people about the impact of philanthropy.”

    Illustration by Christine Hipp.

    Looking Forward

    Statistically, it’s difficult to say whether the UC system counts as a private institution. Though state aid has declined sharply, it still exists and funds large aspects of the UC. Still, it might be time for students to have a look at where the private sector has had a hand in shaping their university experience. The UC is a constantly changing system, and more changes are surely on the way.

    “Students here are really philanthropic,” Kent said. “[Philanthropy efforts are] going to Haiti, to Second Harvest. But there’s no one out there selling cupcakes for scholarships.”

    Some say cupcakes are unlikely to save the UC, even with the best intentions behind them. SUA representative Nelson Cortez said counting on the private sector, whether in the form of a bake sale or a corporate endowment, is not a solution.

    “The private sector can play a pivotal role in the UC, and has in the past,” Cortez said. “But relying solely on the private sector to fund the UC is unrealistic and will only lead to a private UC.”

    The educational and professional fate of untold numbers of UC students may be decided beginning Nov. 16. UC regents will meet then to begin discussion of an 8–16 percent tuition increase every year for the next four years, contingent on state aid. If Sacramento fails to deliver to the UC, student tuition could reach over $22,000 by 2016. As a result, whether the private sector should, or even can, save the UC is a question that might need answering sooner rather than later.

    • Anonymous

      And yet the Regents backed AB 131, giving Illegal Aliens $40 Million of Legal Students’ State aid and further impacting education budget. This will only become larger every year. Say goodbye to YOUR higher education.

    • Npritcha

      I enjoyed this feature. While I agree that private contributions are important to fund projects and new majors, there is a restrictive quality to these funds that bothers me. The UC is not self-determinant, but dependant upon the interests of private organizations and businesses. As someone who believes students should have most infuence when conducting public universities’ activities, private funding of this sort is a frustrating, bitter-sweet solution. I will graduate this spring with a major (AMST) that has dwindling resources while new majors are being added to the curriculum and tuition continues to rise.

    • Hannahj89

      Why are so many illegals draining the cash pot from our state? We need to take an honest look at the causes of our financial crisis.