Lack of State Funding Impedes Technological Research

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California lags behind nearly one-third of other states in technological research despite its flourishing technology industry, according to a study released yesterday.

The Milken Institute, which conducts research in economics, business and finance, placed California in the third-best position "to succeed in the technology-led information age," according to a study from the institute.

But the study also said that funding for California university science and technology departments is faltering.

California ranks 15th among other states in the amount of money it spends on technological research per capita, the study reported.

As a result, California's position as a hub of technological employment may also decline, the study said.

"If you look at the estimated numbers of people we'll need in engineering-related jobs in the future, we're probably not training enough people," said UC Berkeley computer science professor Alexander Aiken.

Although UC Berkeley's College of Engineering ranks as one of the leading technological institutions in the nation, UC Berkeley and other California universities lack the resources necessary to provide technological training for many interested students, Aiken said.

UC Berkeley's electrical engineering and computer science department, one of seven departments in the engineering college, received 3,316 applications for the fall 2001 freshman class but only admitted 11 percent of them.

Currently there are 2,708 undergraduates and 1,481 graduate students in the engineering college.

"Berkeley is one piece in a big puzzle," Aiken said. "It's a question of space and facility, and it's a question of money."

Consequently, UC Berkeley and other California universities do not produce enough scientists and engineers to meet industry demand, even for employers within the state of California itself, the study said.

California employers hire more trained technology professionals from other states, where there is a larger output of trained technology students, said Frank Fogelbach, a research analyst for the Milken Institute who co-authored the study.

"Thanks to California's quality of life, everyone wants to work here," Fogelbach said. "The incentive for (California) to develop its own programs for fostering higher education among California natives is not as high as it would be for states like Iowa."

But UC Berkeley has made improvements to increase high-tech education and find more students for in-state technological employment, said Judy Pacult, president of TechVentures Network, a sponsor of the Milken Institute study.

"Partnerships between University of California, San Francisco and UC Berkeley are helping to increase biomedical education and engineering," Pacult said. "You have to make sure that your graduate students are competitive with other schools in the country."

California's current budget crisis may continue to hinder advances in educating more engineering and science students, Pacult said.

"UC Berkeley and California state universities are in part supported because of the state budget," she said. "Those funds protect the core of teaching, but in terms of making all the differences and providing resources for graduate students, the money isn't there."

Aiken said without money, the condition of technological education at UC Berkeley will probably remain unchanged in the short term.

But long-term solutions may be possible even without budget increases if the university "can educate more people with the same resources," he said.


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