UC Commission on the Future Releases Final Report

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With the University of California facing an increasingly precarious financial situation, the university's Commission on the Future unveiled its final recommendations for maintaining the UC's fiscal viability on Monday.

The recommendations focus on various methods to generate revenue for the university in a time of drastically reduced state funding for the system's 10 campuses, including increasing the number of out-of-state students, negotiating better cost recovery rates to reduce research overhead costs, increasing the amount of money yielded through private fundraising and increasing the revenue generated by the UC's self-supporting programs.

"UC is intent on maintaining its historic support of California's intellectual and economic eminence ... and (sustaining) excellence despite fiscal constraints," said UC Provost Lawrence Pitts during a phone-in press conference held Monday to present the report.

The report's release culminates almost 18 months of work since the commission's inception in July 2009, during which the commission's members - including 26 UC regents, professors and administration members; three California business leaders; and two UC Student Association representatives divided into five working groups - worked towards its stated goal of developing "a vision for the future of the University that will reaffirm our role is sustaining California's economy ... while recognizing that our limited state resources require us to be creative and strategic in meeting that mission," as laid out in a July 16, 2009 letter by UC Board of Regents Chair Russell Gould when he formally established the commission.

But systemwide Academic Senate Chair and UC Davis law professor Daniel Simmons said the report failed to provide an overall strategic plan for the university.

"There's ideas for cutting costs, there's ideas for raising revenue and standing alone a lot of it is good," he said. "But it really doesn't overall provide a cohesive direction for (the UC)."

Additional proposals recommend reaffirming the UC's commitment to the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education and easing transfer students transition to a UC campus while others suggest reducing a student's time to degree and further developing online education.

The last two recommendations in particular have come under fire, with the Berkeley Faculty Association saying the reduced time to degree could wrest academic decision-making away from UC faculty and decrying the online project as a "boondoggle."

But during the press conference, Gould lauded the time to degree proposal, saying, "I can't think of a better way to keep costs down for students, for taxpayers and their families and to allow students to achieve their dreams quickly."

The report includes a series of "contingency recommendations" - such as raising or eliminating the cap on the proportion of out-of-state students enrolled in the UC system, curtailing undergraduate enrollment and charging differential tuition by campus - that were not endorsed by the commission but could be reconsidered should "the fiscal crisis deepen and State and other funding sources continue to decline to a point where the University can no longer sustain its longstanding commitment to academic quality and increasing access," the report states.

However, UC President Mark Yudof said the university is not in a position where it needs to consider such controversial proposals.

Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said "the state must live within its means," as he proposed a $7 billion cut in state spending on Monday, leaving the future of state support for the UC up in the air.

"If things get worse or uglier, people are going to have to rethink where we're headed," Simmons said.


Jordan Bach-Lombardo covers higher education. Contact him at [email protected]

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