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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Information Please

As things heat up for the upcoming regents meeting, there is this from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The University of California has so far failed to comply with a new state law pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown requiring it to disclose, for the first time, key details about how it spends its money — information state officials want especially now that UC is asking the regents to approve five years of tuition increases.  Brown pushed for the law after expressing frustration with UC for giving fat raises to executives, and after urging a moratorium on tuition increases in exchange for more state funding...

As the Oct. 1 deadline approached, UC requested a month’s extension. On Oct. 31, UC President Janet Napolitano submitted a seven-page preliminary report explaining that accurately breaking out expenditures would be “extremely challenging” because of overlap between research and instruction, and because “funds are neither budgeted nor spent according to these categories.” It said that a final report would be submitted in six weeks, but its information “should be used cautiously.” ...

“It’s not just the governor. The Legislature also approved this law, and the purpose was to provide parents, policymakers and the public more information about the cost of education — which is important data to have when you’re weighing decisions like what’s the appropriate level of tuition,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for Brown’s Department of Finance...

“We think it’s important,” said Paul Golaszewski, who analyzes higher education policy for California’s independent Legislative Analyst. “We know there’s a big difference in (the cost of) undergraduates and graduate students. So if the state wanted to increase just undergraduate enrollment — or just graduates — there hasn’t been a way to do it because the costs have been lumped together...

Full story at http://m.sfgate.com/education/article/UC-resists-law-requiring-disclosure-of-5895688.php

There is a bit of a problem here apart from the PR/political issues.  There are a lot of fixed costs at UC campuses and a lot of shared expenses.  How much of the electric bill goes for graduate vs. undergraduate education?  Is the portion of a research grant that supports RAs actually part of educational spending or is some part educational and some part research?  What about the overhead that is deducted from research grants?  How much overhead could be allocated to education for supporting, say, the library?  Etc.  Of course, you can make arbitrary divisions of the money but any such division can be challenged.  What UC should have done is let some outside source - perhaps selected with the blessing of the Dept. of Finance or the Legislative Analyst - do the dividing and accounting so that it could point to the outside study as a reasonable estimate.  And, of course, it wouldn't have hurt to get the work done within the deadline.

The state wanted information - so why isn't the information available?
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