Sunday, May 20, 2012

UC Tuition Increases: The True Cost of Providing Education

An important question that must be asked is what is the COST of providing an UC education? And why is the cost rising so much faster than inflation? I've found a blog post that deals with costs and is very detailed using the UCOP budget office's own report on the cost of providing education. I will only repost a summary, the blog post is worth reading in detail.
I have not edited any of these figures, and so we learn that the UC’s estimation of the direct instructional cost is actually lower than my calculation of $9,000. The question then is why is their total cost estimate so much higher, and the answer is that they assume that the indirect instructional costs make up over 60% of the total cost; in fact, they argue that the university pays almost the same amount for faculty salaries as it does for departmental support.
From my perspective, this report shows that students and the state are paying for the enormous increase in administrative costs on the campuses, and thus the economic solution is not to reduce enrollments or raise tuition; rather, the solution has to be to decrease the cost of non-instructional services. Faculty, citizens, students, and workers concerned about instruction and research should question these budgetary policies.
A UC Berkeley professor tried to come up with his own estimate of what the costs are to educated per student at Berkeley in 2005. He found that actual costs should be only $7000. Again, readers should check out his post for the details.
The top budget officer of my school, the University of California, says that the current annual Cost of Instruction is about $16,000 per student. I have done a detailed calculation, using official accounting reports and an official faculty time-use study, to conclude that, averaging over all UC programs, undergraduate education costs this institution just under $7,000 per student per year. (See the details of this calculation at ) Thus, current levels of undergraduate student fees now cover the full actual cost of their education at UC! That is shocking. Various experts have said that my result must be wrong; and a few have manufactured rather hilarious reasons to discredit it. (See ) None have given any objective basis for faulting my analysis, although I continue to seek that sort of academic dialogue. I have a list of many small details in the calculation where better data, discussion or analysis could lead to a more precise answer.
My tentative conclusion is that a huge amount of money is being spent on programs and stuff that does not have anything to do with educating students. Administrative costs are a prime example, though not the only one. I have a good friend who is a Cal-State university professor. He says that the reason administrative costs are not cut is because administrators are the ones who make the decision where to cut. They aren't going to cut their own jobs! Nor do will they want to layoff their staff or reduce their own budgets. Yes this is only a small segment of the larger picture, but one that deserves attention.

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