Former UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young recently outlined how California and the University of California arrived at the current budget crisis, and suggested that the path to economic stability for UC lies in a modified form of privatization on which it already has embarked to some degree.
A UCLA professor emeritus of political science and public policy, Young spoke on “The State of California and Its University” at the 25th annual Bollens-Ries-Hoffenberg Lecture, held on Thursday, April 21, at the Faculty Center. He presented highlights from an article he wrote, “Policy Options for University of California Budgeting,” for California Policy Options 2011, published by the Ralph and Goldy Lewis Center.
Young—who helped to draft the California Master plan for Higher Education in 1959-1960 and served as UCLA’s chancellor from 1968 to 1997—first described the important role UC played in California’s dynamic economic development after World War II, when it received increasing financial support from the state, grew for decades, and developed a world-class reputation. But in the late 1980s, this support began to decline, and “now UC is in jeopardy,” he said.
He cited several factors for the funding decline: the inability of Democrats and Republicans to reach agreement on the state’s budget because of legislative-district apportionment practices; Proposition 13, the 1978 state measure reducing property taxes, which also mandates a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and Senate to pass a state budget; and Proposition 98, which requires the state to spend about 40 percent of its budget on K-14 education.
As a result, Young said, the state is very dependent on income-tax revenues, which fluctuate dramatically with the economy, leaving budget allocations to prisons and higher education as the only significant areas of spending flexibility.
For UC to have a more viable financial footing, he proposed shaping the movement toward “modified privatization” of the University, already underway to some degree.
“Let’s take the bull by the horns and have it means something,” Young said, “with funding from the state based on a contractual relationship. A five-year contract would provide some stability.” Such a contract would specify UC’s obligation to educate a given number of students in specified disciplines in exchange for a set amount of money.
In addition, he said that improving UC’s finances also would require: increased student tuition offset by increased financial aid and more international students, with all qualified California residents continuing to have access to UC; more money generated from research; and more unrestricted private funding.
“We have to come together as a people and decide what is in the best interests of the people,” Young said.