Yudof Seeks More Federal Aid for Public Universities

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Amid dwindling state funds and proposed student fee increases, UC President Mark Yudof is calling for an increase in federal support for public higher education.

In a proposal released last week, Yudof outlined ideas for an "integrated national strategy" that would increase federal funding for public universities across the nation, suggesting a $2.5 billion federal investment in universities' operations and an additional $3 billion for graduate programs.

According to the proposal, state funding for higher education has decreased in 30 of the 50 states. In California, state funding has decreased by 40 percent in the last 20 years.

Though Yudof acknowledged recent gains in student and research aid from the federal government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he emphasized the need for increased funding in universities' core operations, which include faculty salaries, construction and facility maintenance.

"These significant contributions (by the federal government) more and more seem like ornaments hung on a tree that has begun to wither from lack of water," he said in the proposal.

UC spokesperson Chris Harrington said the proposal provides a starting point in discussing long-term financial remedies for public universities such as the University of California.

"(It's) part of an effort to put ideas out there, to get the conversation ... elevated to a higher level," he said.

Yudof's proposal echoes a similar one put forth by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary in a Sept. 27 op-ed in The Washington Post.

Like Yudof's proposal, the op-ed called for increased federal investment in public higher education to provide more funding for operational costs.

However, Yudof's proposal did not reflect a suggestion from Birgeneau and Yeary that out-of-state and in-state residents pay equal amounts of student fees, Harrington said.

He said Yudof has been to Washington, D.C. multiple times to lobby for federal increased support of higher education.

But federal lawmakers have said other political issues must be addressed before increased funding for higher education can be discussed.

Bergen Kenny, a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Harkin, D–Iowa, said Harkin, who chairs the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, supports increased federal funding of public education, but health care is currently a higher priority.

"We are up to our eyes in health care," Kenny said. "We are waiting for the dust to clear on that."

According to Gary Wolfram, a professor of economics and public policy at Hillsdale College in Michigan, public universities could be better served by the private sector instead of depending on government funds.

"Over the long term (universities are) going to have to raise money privately and compete with private institutions," he said.


Contact Michael Garcia at [email protected]

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