Sunday, January 31, 2010

Share Your Experiences/Observations: There's Richness in Many Voices and Power in Numbers

The Master White Paper intends to reflect the richness of the voices from our twenty three campuses' populations of faculty, students, and staff. Your comments here as well as suggestions for materials to post on this site (such as relevant articles) can become a deep pool from which we can draw for the MWP. Please contribute, even if you think it's just a small part. Together these contributions, whether small or not, add up to something potentially immense.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"Doing More with Less"? Cold Fusion and Education

In today's LA Times, January 28, 2010, Carla Rivera reports on the Board of Trustees latest meeting in which they announced their plans to speed up graduation. According to the article, the consensus opinion among the BOT and high administration officials is that the university needs to remind students of why they're in school. The problem isn't that students can't get the classes that they need and that many have not been well-prepared for college level work. The problem is that we've been too "laissez-faire" with dawdling students. The problem isn't drastic budget cuts, fewer faculty members, larger classes, higher fees, and fewer classes. No, the problem is wayward students who don't know how to navigate college and are spending too much time taking classes they don't need. As if that were the main problem!

The notion of doing more with less, which is the code phrase for budget cuts, furloughs, layoffs, program elimination, and restructuring from administrators, reminds me of the notion of cold fusion: that you can get energy from nothing.

From the story:

Students attending California State University may be in for a dose of tough love as they are asked to choose majors more quickly, be more disciplined about attending class and be willing to sacrifice family time and outside activities to earn their degrees, several campus presidents said Wednesday.

They spoke during a meeting of Cal State's Board of Trustees at which university officials formally announced an ambitious initiative to raise graduation rates, particularly for students who are from minority groups and low-income households.

Cal State is setting a goal of increasing its six-year graduation rate 8% by 2016, raising it to 54%, as well as cutting in half the achievement gap in degree completion by under-represented minority students. Each of the giant university's 23 campuses is scheduled to have a plan in place by this fall.

Although each campus will implement a plan that fits the special needs of its student body, some common themes emerged Wednesday: Students will be given more individualized support such as counseling, more information about required course work and resources such as online tracking of their progress.

But the students will have to be more focused about their goals and understand that, given the university's fiscal constraints, the longer they stay in school, the less opportunity there will be for others to enroll, the presidents said.

To some extent, campus administrators have been "enablers" for many students, allowing them to dawdle in choosing majors and progressing toward their degrees, Cal State L.A. President James M. Rosser said in an interview.

"We're looking at how we've done our business and whether we've become too laissez faire," he said. "In high school they have workshops on how to get to college. We want to tell students how to get out of college. That might mean some intrusive advisement.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CSU Executives Benefits Summary

An Excerpt from the 2006 version of the recruitment brochure used by the CSU to attract new executives.

As you read this, it might be useful to keep in mind the following from our Call for a Master White Paper:

"In particular, this MWP would call for a dramatic cutback in the number, power, pay and purpose of administrative positions within the system based on the principle that a) in times of crisis the most important functions must be safeguarded - such as teaching, scholarship, and access for students - functions that are at the heart of the universities, and the least important functions - such as the burgeoning and overpaid high administrative posts - should be cut first, and b) even if we were not in the throes of a budget crisis, the growth of administrative posts in number, their share of resources, their agenda, and their power vis a vis faculty and students in recent decades and years has been detrimental to the CSU system and its official purpose of being a part (along with the UC system) of providing the best possible higher educational system for California.

"We would propose, in contrast to the prevailing ethic that high administrative posts, such as Chancellor and Presidents, must be paid very large salaries in order to attract (i.e., bribe) the best talent to serve in education, while faculty are expected to serve principally for the love of education, that these high administrative posts be filled with those whose first and foremost purpose is to serve education and not primarily for the power, prestige, pay and perks. We will push for the same ethic that faculty are expected to live by to be explicitly the criteria for administrators and that the pay for high administrators be cut substantially and be tied to a formula relative to faculty pay. We expect that such a change would attract a very different kind of person to these administrative posts and that the relationship between administration and faculty will become cooperative rather than adversarial, benefiting the system, the state and the nation as a whole."

The California State University
January 2006

The Benefits of Working at the CSU

This summary of executive perquisites, relocation benefits, and general benefits provides an overview of systemwide benefits generally available to executives of the California State University (CSU).

Executive Perquisites

Trustee policy recognizes the extensive business-related, public relations, and institutional development obligations of executives and provides special executive perquisites in recognition of these obligations. Campus foundations may supplement perquisites for presidents based on existing campus practice and local community preferences.

Executive perquisites may be taxable income to the recipient, and executives are encouraged to seek individual consultation with competent tax advisors regarding the potential impact of executive benefits and allowances.

Housing and Housing Allowances

The CSU campus presidents are provided with an official CSU residence where available. If an official residence is not available, a housing allowance is provided to assist the campus president in securing a residence. Housing allowances vary by campus.

Automobile and Automobile Allowances

The CSU campus presidents have a vehicle available for business use, and the campus provides automobile insurance, maintenance, and gasoline expenses for that vehicle. In lieu of a university vehicle, the CSU campus presidents have the option of electing an automobile
allowance of $1000 per month. Automobile allowances may be available to executives in the Chancellor’s Office.

Entertainment Allowance

Campus presidents receive an entertainment allowance of $300 per month from the state’s general fund to defray entertainment costs incurred in the course of conducting official business and institutional development activities. Additionally, funds are also available from the state general fund for community relations expenses. Executives in the Office of the Chancellor have access to funds for community related expenses. Campus foundations may supplement general fund
entertainment allowances and community relations activities.

Monday, January 25, 2010

AB 656

The following is from CFA Headlines concerning AB 656 which would have imposed an oil and gas severance tax and direct these monies to fund higher education in California, thus providing higher ed with a stable source of funding. California is the only state that does not tax the oil and gas companies for their extracting these precious state resources. Given the record profits of oil companies, in the billions of dollars quarterly, and the desperate state that higher ed is in, the status quo is manifestly unjust. The same kind of pressure brought on the state and the board of regents that students and faculty brought in the demonstrations of last term and that led to Schwarzenegger's announcement that he would not cut the UC and CSU budgets further is what needs to be broadened and escalated.

“Those protests on the U.C. campuses were the tipping point,” the governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, said in an interview after the [Governor's 1/6/10] speech. “Our university system is going to get the support it deserves.”


On Thursday, [1/21/10] the [California] Assembly Appropriations Committee took action on CFA-sponsored Assembly Bill 656 that essentially defeats the bill for this legislative cycle.

The committee deleted the oil and gas severance tax portion of the bill earmarked for public higher education and replaced it with a simple reporting requirement. The amendments require the state Board of Equalization to annually report to the legislature the amount of revenue that would be generated for public higher education if the oil and gas tax was implemented.

The inability to garner a two-thirds vote that would have been required for Assembly passage – only possible with the support of Assembly Republicans – coupled with the bill’s potential costs to the state general fund, directly led to this outcome.

When AB 656, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, was first introduced, CFA understood efforts to enact this bill would be a multi-year process.

CFA leaders expressed disappointment that the bill was not approved as originally proposed, but stressed how critical the months of lobbying and grassroots efforts by faculty, students and community members in supporting this measure were to influencing state policymakers about the need to fund public higher education.

The dialogue created by this collective action was instrumental in the Governor’s decision to increase the CSU budget by at least $305 million in his January budget proposal.

“Many in the legislature didn’t expect us to move AB 656 as far as we did,” stated CFA President Lillian Taiz. “We have not given up on our efforts to provide a stable source of funding for the CSU, and will continue to forcefully and effectively pursue avenues that will provide us these needed funds.”

Taiz added, “AB 656, coupled with our years of efforts to inform the public about the problems facing CSU, has placed higher education at the forefront of the state’s concerns. We will continue our efforts to ensure the long term health of the CSU is not sacrificed in the name of short-term economic expediency.”

CFA is continuing legislative efforts to provide oversight and accountability of the $1.34 billion in hidden funds held by CSU campus auxiliaries and foundations. The bi-partisan SB 330, authored by Senator Leland Yee - a reintroduction of last year’s SB 218 - was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate next week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Deliver Us From Deliverology

Updated: 1/22/10 at 2:35 pm PST

In late November 2009, when the edict from Chancellor Reed came down that the CSU would be adopting Sir Michael Barber's Deliverology, a conversation on my campus' CFA email list ensued. The discussion prompted me to contact John Seddon whose critique of Barber from his book on Public Service Sector Policies in England can be viewed here. Some of the rest of that elist conversation I plan to post here on this site.

The two below are the first ones I've selected from that discussion. The first comes from John Edlund, the second from Nicholas Van Glahn. Please weigh in on this, as some of you already have begun to on this site, either by sharing an observation or raising a question.

Entering Phantom Logs About Phantom Logs

"It has been a while since I have read Solzhenitsyn but at some point in The Gulag Archipelago he is assigned to a labor camp that cuts timber and rolls the logs into the river to float down to the sawmill. The camp has production quotas that are physically impossible to meet, but politically impossible not to meet. Thus the camp commander meets the quotas by reporting phantom logs.

"Everyone in the supply chain understands this perfectly well, so the sawmill eliminates some of the phantom logs through various accounting fictions, but to meet its own quota reports phantom lumber made from the phantom logs. Downstream, construction units get some of the phantom lumber off the books by reporting damage and loss, but also build phantom houses out of phantom lumber. It's crazy, but it is the system.

"My reading of articles about Deliverology so far indicates that it results in a very similar system, where managers face losing their jobs if they cannot meet the targets imposed from above. It actually seems like administrators have more to fear from this than faculty, but it doesn't sound good." - John Edlund

"What makes this [Deliverology] obnoxious is that this presupposes that a degree is a product to be delivered more efficiently. It is not! A degree is something one earns. I understand wanting to make sure we retain students and find new ways to help students earn those degrees in the face of a paucity of resources, but you can not make a demand that a certain percentage of people must get degrees. I can't see how such a demand will not inevitably lead to administrators (and perhaps faculty with enough 'gentle pressure') making more and more concessions on curriculum and rigor." -- Nicholas Van Glahn

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Time Visitors

If this is your first visit to this site, the Call for participating in the Master White Paper on the CSU System can be found here. An invitation to share your experiences can be found here.

On "Deliverology," in Highlander, UC Riverside's Paper

State universities to adopt 'Deliverology'
By: Shawn Bakshi
Posted: 1/19/10

CSU Chancellor Dr. Charles B. Reed announced earlier this month that the CSU system has adopted a plan to close achievement gaps and raise graduation rates through a system founded and coined by Sir Michael Barber of England: Deliverology. Deliverology was first introduced by Barber during Tony Blair's second term in England in order to improve performance and goal-meeting in the UK's public sector.

This new system focuses on an apparently simple approach to managing accountability and reaching goals set by education officials in the CSU system. In essence, Deliverology seeks to improve education by forcing educators to clarify their goals through identifying problem areas, developing a strategy to improve those areas, and setting up benchmarks in order to monitor their progress.


The system is termed Deliverology as the perceived end result of the system is to deliver results on a scale which can be constantly measured.

In England during what some Britons have called "the reign of Sir Barber," Deliverology seemed effective in increasing literacy rates of children 11 and younger. Proponents of this new system also claim that Deliverology will work in the CSU system in the same fashion it did in England's public sector as a main impetus for the program centers on the idea that people want better public services but are rarely willing to pay more for them.

Not everyone is on board with the Chancellor, however, as some CSU professors have voiced their concerns with what they feel may be an arbitrary change to a system which has been in place for so long.

"Deliverology would be a disaster for the CSU… We are coming up with a counter-plan to that of the Chancellor for the CSU system that goes beyond just a critique of Deliverology; a Master White Paper that will set forth, among other things, a very different vision for the CSU system," said California State Polytechnic University, Pomona sociology professor Dennis Loo, according to The Poly Post.

For the rest of the story, see here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New York Times: Ballot Issues Attest to Anger in California

As today's NY Times article indicates, the mood in California is angry and open to change, including radical change. The CSU administration wants to introduce radical change that will transform the CSU system, but not in a good way. The Master White Paper for the CSU system that we propose, on the other hand, is needed in such a time in order to point the way forward to a very different vision in the face of this crisis.

January 10, 2010


LOS ANGELES — From San Diego to Mount Shasta, voters are expressing mounting disgust over California’s fiscal meltdown and deteriorating services, and they are offering scores of voter initiatives that seek to change the way the state does business.

Over 30 such initiatives — among over 60 total initiatives so far — are now wending their way toward the ballot box. Every day, it seems another vexed voter adds a proposal to the fray.

Some verge on the radical, like one to establish the state’s first constitutional convention in over a century, to rewrite California’s most fundamental legislative rules. There are initiatives in circulation that would reduce the time the Legislature is in session, punish legislators for late budgets and criminalize “false statements about legislative acts.”

Other states, of course, are also suffering through red ink, but none have quite the same mechanism as California’s to let voters get involved with the process. Despite the fact that past initiatives helped get California into its budget crisis — forcing spending in some areas while limiting taxation in others — the pileup of new ones suggests that many voters still believe they hold the solution to the state’s mess. Few seem to believe that elected officials are up to the job.

Some initiatives, in fact, could even limit the initiative process itself, or erase old ones.

The number of initiatives so far, while high, is not the largest in history. But the rage that underlies them has not been seen in decades, said lawmakers, pollsters, political consultants and the proponents.

The feeling is one of revolt,” said John Grubb, the campaign director for Repair California, a coalition behind a pair of initiatives to call a constitutional convention. “And come January, they will start negotiating the budget again, and there will be more fear and loathing. The feeling here is that California state government is broken, and we need not a little fix, but a big fix.”

The public university system, once the crown jewel of California, is struggling with layoffs, tuition increases and outright student and faculty revolts. In the public secondary schools, classroom sizes have swelled and program cuts are rampant.

And everything costs more: sales taxes went up last year, as did many user fees.

On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his latest executive budget, with pay reductions for state workers and more draconian service cuts.

California voters are distinctly unimpressed with the roles played in the crisis by the governor and legislators. Many lawmakers cater to the fringe elements of their respective political parties and are beholden to special interests that finance their campaigns. A paltry 13 percent of registered voters approve of the job the Legislature does, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

And so the efforts to take matters into their own hands.

“It is a very California moment,” said Robert Hertzberg, co-chairman of California Forward, a group of business, political and academic leaders that seeks to change the state’s budget processes. “It is almost like there are a bunch of weapons on the battlefield, and the bullets will be the funding of these initiatives.”


The initiatives concerning the state budget are most in the spotlight, particularly the one that calls for a convention to rewrite the state’s constitution. Delegates to such a convention would quite likely change the law requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass a budget, and they could impose limitations on the initiative process and undo earlier initiatives that require spending for certain programs.

A constitutional convention could also alter the balance of power between state and local governments by giving cities greater control over their portion of the state budget. Many critics of the current system deplore Sacramento’s centralized spending power and policy making for issues like education and local public safety.

Other ballot efforts would put stringent spending limits on the government, require a rainy-day fund and end $2 billion in corporate tax breaks.

Much of the anger in the ballot ideas is aimed straight at the Legislature. There are proposals to cut the pay of lawmakers in half and to prohibit them from voting on legislation that would have a financial impact on their contributors. (One that would force them to get drug tests recently failed to pass muster.)

Gabriella Holt, president of Citizens for California Reform, an advocacy group behind proposals to cut the pay of the Legislature and shorten its term, said, “We decided we should put the question to voters.”

“I think people are very, very angry and very, very frustrated,” Ms. Holt added, “and they want to send a message that they want to take back their government.”

“Lots of people are unhappy, but for so many different and conflicting reasons that it is hard to envision where we will end up,” said Bruce E. Cain, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley. “It could be a chaotic jumble.”

From Science Magazine: Destruction At Florida State University

Science 1 January 2010:
Vol. 327. no. 5961, pp. 24 - 25
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5961.24

Recession Hits Some Sciences Hard At Florida State University
Richard A. Kerr

Philip Froelich, 63, is the tenured Francis Eppes Professor of Oceanography at Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee. He won't be much longer. Despite a distinguished 31-year career as a researcher and administrator, he will be laid off next May. And despite a positive external evaluation within the past year, his department — much diminished by layoffs — will be no more, folded along with the geological sciences department into a new department dominated by meteorology. "Why would you cut Flip Froelich? It doesn't make any sense," says geologist Michael Perfit of the University of Florida (UF), Gainesville.

It's all about money, of course. When the cash-strapped Florida state legislature recently slashed funds for higher education for the third straight year, big across-the-board cuts spilled down through individual state university budgets. But at FSU—one of the "big four" Florida state schools—the fiscal crisis has turned into a ravaging torrent for a few departments, most of them in the sciences.

In the end, unlike at other universities, FSU administrators balanced their budget by firing many faculty members, including many tenured professors like Froelich. That decimated the geological sciences, oceanography, and anthropology departments. "The layoffs at FSU have truly devastated faculty morale across the campus," says anthropologist Cheryl Ward of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina, who left FSU before the cuts. They "caused lasting harm to science programs."

But to the FSU administration, slashing small departments that were far from supporting themselves was the only way to avoid permanently undermining education across the university. The deep, targeted cuts were unfortunately the best option, says FSU Provost Lawrence Abele. "I don't believe in cutting across the board; that weakens everything," he says.

There's no disagreement on the 39,000-student FSU campus that the budget situation has gone from serious to dire. The big, tax-generating housing bubble burst early in Florida, which has no state income tax to cushion the loss. The Florida legislature cut the state university system's annual $380 million budget by $82 million over 2007 to 2010—$55 million of it in this academic year. That budget, plus tuition, pays all salaries in the state system. And at slightly over $3100 last year (up 15% this year), tuition at Florida state universities was the lowest in the nation, notes Joseph Travis, FSU's dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "We're trying to run a Major League Baseball operation on a AAA or AA [minor league] budget," he says.

Across-the-board cuts "could cripple the institutional missions, starving everybody," says Travis, so "you do elaborate cost-benefit analyses. Which of the programs are the weakest?" FSU President T. K. Wetherell made the criteria for judging the strength of a department or
program explicit: student credit hours generated, degrees awarded, contract and grant expenditures, and tuition collected, all on a per-faculty as well as an absolute basis.

The state legislature funds FSU "based on enrollment," Travis notes. The departments of geological sciences, meteorology, and oceanography came in at the bottom of 15 Arts and Sciences departments with about 6000 student credit hours per year each, according to Travis. Anthropology was fourth from the bottom with 11,000 hours; English, for example, had 50,000. "Sciences never pay for themselves," says Travis. "There's always a subsidy arrangement" in which larger departments in effect help support smaller ones. But in the third straight year of budget cutting, "the subsidy gets harder to find," says Travis.

Targeted departments and programs within departments took heavy hits. Geological Sciences and Oceanography will be merged with Meteorology at the end of this academic year to form a new department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. Froelich thinks the merger is a reasonable idea but says "the university should have done it 2 to 5 years ago," when more favorable economic conditions would have given any merged department better prospects. Anthropology barely survived elimination but will be diminished and restructured.

The numerous and often focused faculty firings have been much more controversial. Of the faculty laid off from 2007 to 2010 in the 10,700-faculty Florida State University System, 60% were laid off from FSU's approximately 1750 faculty alone, according to data collected by FSU faculty members and provided by Froelich. Approximately 43 tenured or tenure-track faculty were laid off across the system. But according to FSU English professor and Faculty Senate President Eric Walker, 35 of those 43 "tenure-line" faculty were lost at FSU.

Of about 21 tenured faculty let go across the system, all or all but one were at FSU. The College of Education was hit hard, but 10 of that 21 came out of the College of Arts and Sciences, all of them scientists in the relatively small departments of geological sciences, oceanography, and anthropology. Oceanography, at least, had just this spring received a "glowing" evaluation from the university that included an external reviewer, according to Froelich.

Elsewhere in the Florida state system, faculty fared better. At UF, "we did not cut a lot of existing people," says Provost Joseph Glover. "We did cut a lot of vacant and newly vacant positions. And we've spread [the cuts] over a period of time, [so] this year we only have left a small amount to do." The geological sciences department was on the block for a while, notes Perfit, its chair. The problem, as he sees it, was that "we were just small. Some of the best [geoscience] schools in the nation are being cut just because they're small" and would therefore seem to create only small losses to the university. His department survived, though for now the university is using stimulus money to pay everyone in the department.

FSU was the only university in the system to lean so heavily on faculty layoffs, but FSU's Travis still sees no way around that. As to Oceanography in particular, "the discussion was never about ... value of research," he writes in an e-mail. "The discussion was always about
whether we could continue to afford to subsidize" a department generating so few undergraduate credit hours and relatively few graduate degrees. And in 40 years the legislature has never come back and restored funds it cut from the budget, he says. Other Florida universities like UF may be using stimulus money to avoid extensive faculty firings until budget cuts are restored or tuition increases accumulate, he says, but "we at FSU chose not to take this kind of chance."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Higher Education in California - Time for a New Master Plan II?

The upshot of what Mark Shapiro points out below about William Tierney's January 3, 2010 LA Times Op Ed - in which Tierney calls for replacing the Master Plan with a "high cost/high aid" system - would be, if implemented, the dismantling of the gigantic public good that California's higher educational system has been and was intended to be. Tierney's proposal represents the logic of privatization supplanting public welfare. His suggestion about providing a truly college prep curriculum to high school students makes sense. But the rest of it is very bad. You cannot replace a system that is based on the funding of a public good with a system that's based on privatizing everyone's interests and expect not to lose a great deal in the translation.

There are many, many problems with Tierney's argument. For instance, he states in his Op Ed "there are no objective criteria to determine what students should take away from their learning." What he means to imply here is that there should be assessment tools to measure performance - in other words, there should be No Child Left Behind high stakes test equivalents.

What is "objective"? A standardized test? That is undoubtedly what he means to imply. But what makes a uniformly used, standardized test more "objective" than the criteria applied by faculty to their students? Is a standardized test a better measure of how well a student has learned to think? Does it make he or she better at utilizing the content that they have learned in diverse activities? How is that better than the evaluation by individual faculty of their students? What makes Bloom's Taxonomy of Cognitive Stages, the standard that I use, non-objective? Bloom's approach is based on the view that our goal as educators is to get students to reach the highest stage of cognitive development of what Bloom called "evaluation." Evaluation is what most people mean in essence when they talk about the goal of becoming a critical thinker. Standardized tests of the kind that Tierney and his ilk desire don't measure for that. Indeed, the experience of NCLB and its equivalent in England under Sir Michael Barber's "Deliverology" has been to undermine critical thinking and teaching and replace it with teaching to the test and promoting memorization.

© 2010 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro, reposted by permission.

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro

"If we keep treating our most important values as meaningless relics, that's exactly what they'll become. "... ...Michael Josephson.

Commentary of the Day - January 10, 2010: Higher Education in California - Time for a New Master Plan I?

In a recent op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times William Tierney, professor of higher education at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis, suggested that the current Master Plan for Public Higher Education in California is obsolete and needs to be replaced with a master plan that "better reflects the times."

Tierney argued in his op-ed piece that the current Master Plan, which was adopted in 1960 was based on four assumptions that reflected the conditions of that era; namely,

* High school education was separate from the higher education system, an end in itself.

* UC, Cal State and community colleges were largely funded by taxpayers.

* Accumulating credits and fulfilling credit requirements, regardless of their relevance, was equated with learning.

* Degree requirements and course content varied significantly across UC, Cal State and the community colleges.

He goes on to argue that owing to the exigencies of the California budget crisis and the largely dysfunction status of state government, the current Master Plan should be replaced by one based on the following assumptions:

* High school and higher education must be linked to ensure that when students graduate from high school, they are prepared for college.

* Students, not institutions, are funded.

* Classes are offered in a variety of settings and times, and at the students' pace.

* Course content, and what students are expected to know to acquire a specific degree, is standardized or closely related across the system. Meeting those expectations, rather than acquiring credits, would be the key to getting a degree.

The IP would argue that Tierney substantially mischaracterizes the current Master Plan in order to set up a "straw man" argument that favors his underlying precept about how public higher education in California should be funded. Basically, Tierney wants to replace the current funding model that uses taxpayer funds to keep the immediate costs of attending a University of California, California State University, or California Community College campus as low as possible with a "high-cost - high-aid" model similar to that found in the realm of private higher education. He argues in his piece that those who can afford it should pay the "market cost" of their education, while those who can't afford to pay the "market-cost" should receive enough financial aid to allow them to attend. Presumably, under Tierney's funding model the taxpayer would fund only a portion of student financial aid, and the public universities and colleges in the state would be on their own to raise the funds necessary to cover their operating costs.

In subsequent commentaries the Irascible Professor will examine the remainder of the assumptions, both old and new, that Tierney makes. This article will focus on the fallacies that are inherent in Tierney's funding model.

First Tierney doesn't make clear what he means by "market cost." Does he mean the actual cost of education for each individual student who can afford to pay? In that version of "every student on his own" funding tuitions charges would vary from student to student depending on the costs to offer the actual courses a student takes, where they are offered, and how they are offered. Presumably, an engineering student would pay much higher costs than an English major. (Unfortunately, differential fees already are being charged in the University of California system for several "high-cost" programs.) Or, does Tierney suggest that the "market cost" simply reflect the tuition charges of comparable private universities? This would raise the "market cost" for UC and CSU undergraduates to something like the nearly $38,000 per year for tuition and fees that universities like USC and Stanford charge for those who can afford to pay.

More than likely, the market cost that Tierney intends is closer to the tuition and fee levels of the private colleges and universities, which is roughly four times the tuition and fees that University of California students pay and roughly eight times what California State University students now pay. It's a little more difficult to determine the "market cost" for community college courses. Currently, community colleges in California charge roughly $20 per semester unit. Some "for-profit" vocational colleges that offer comparable courses charge as much as $550 per semester unit, though a rough figure of about $300 per semester unit can be used for comparison. That's about 15 times what community college students now pay.

But, the problem with using private college tuition charges as a proxy for the "market cost" of education is that it captures only a fraction of what it actually costs to run a large college or university. Substantial contributions to the costs of educating students at large private colleges and universities comes from earnings on endowments, grants, and overhead charged to outside agencies like the federal government. Even the sons and daughters of the wealthy who pay the full tuition rates are being subsidized to some extent.

Most importantly, even at the most prestigious private colleges and universities the majority of students do not pay full tuition. The majority receive some form of student aid. In the high-cost - high-aid model that is typical for large private colleges and universities aid comes in four forms; grants and scholarships, work-study funds, tax credits, and loans. The first three of these do not have to be paid back, while loans must be paid off. According to the College Board's Trends in Student Aid (2007) about half of student aid is in the form of government and private loans that must be repaid. Thus, the majority of graduates (and parents of graduates) from large private colleges and universities accumulate substantial amounts of debt that must be paid off with interest following graduation.

In contrast, in the low-tuition - low-to-moderate aid model that is typical of California's public institutions of higher education student aid comes in five forms. The first, and perhaps most significant, is the indirect tax-payer subsidy that covers a significant fraction of the cost of education. The other four forms of student aid in the public colleges are the same as for private college students; grants and scholarships, work-study funds, tax credits, and loans. However, the proportions typically are different. The fastest rising component of student-aid in recent years for both private and public college students is the loan component. But, because overall costs are much lower in the public institutions, student indebtedness upon graduation usually is much more manageable.

If California were to adopt a high-cost - high-aid model to fund its three systems of public higher education, low- and moderate-income students surely would find it much more difficult to afford a college education. The reasons for this outcome should be obvious to even the most casual observer of higher education funding in. First, the impetus to adopt such a funding system would have to come from political pressures to reduce the cost of these institutions to the taxpayer. The change would be sold quite cynically as a way to lower taxes using the usual, but fallacious, claim that Californians are overtaxed (in fact some 35 states have higher state and local taxes than California). Clearly, if such a change were to come about the Legislature would hardly turn around and spend an equivalent amount of tax dollars on student aid.

Second, it's highly unlikely that collecting "market cost" tuition from the minority of U.C., CSU, and community college students who might be able to afford such high tuition rates would come close to covering the cost of operations. Thus, little of that money would be available for student aid for the majority of students who would need it. The only hope for the three systems would be to recover "market cost" tuition from those receiving student-aid; and, that would happen only if those students are willing to take on much higher levels of student loan indebtedness. There are some who might be willing to chance that. Others, will choose to reduce the number of units that they take so that they can work more hours to obtain the funds they need to pay the much higher tuition. In the process this group will take much longer to complete their degrees, raising the likelihood that they will drop out before graduating.

But many students from the poorest families will find the prospect of a lifetime of indebtedness to pay for a college education so daunting that they simply would give up any hope for obtaining a college degree.

Perhaps the weakest aspect of Tierney's proposal to radically change the way in which public higher education is funded in California is that it considers only the costs to the taxpayer of funding the U.C., CSU, and community college system and does not consider the value that taxpayers receive in return for their support. In addition, Tierney's proposal does not take into account the possible unintended consequences of moving entirely to a high-cost - high-aid model.

From a purely financial standpoint taxpayer support of public higher education is an investment, not a cost. It has been well established that for every tax dollar spent on public higher education the state receives more than three dollars in increased tax revenues. It is no secret that college graduates generally earn more money than those who do not go to college. As a consequence, they pay more in taxes. However, the increased tax revenues are only a part of the picture. The public systems of higher education produce a wide range of educated people who are needed to help make society function -- teachers, nurses, social workers and the like. These are not the highest paid of professions, but they are necessary nevertheless. The most severe unintended consequence of moving to a high-cost - high-aid model would be to deter students from choosing careers such as these. After all, when a student graduates from college with tens of thousands of dollars of loans to pay off, he or she is going to look for the best paying job available.

It seems to the IP that biggest losers under Tierney's funding proposal will be students from low- and middle-income families; and, the biggest winners will be the money lenders who would stand to collect thousands of dollars in interest payments from each student who is forced to use large loans to fund his or her education.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gov. Schwarzenegger's Proposal

It's telling that Arnold has to actually try to mandate that the state spend more on higher education than on prisons. What kind of state spends more to incarcerate its people than to educate them? The US, by the way, is responsible for incarcerating one out of four of the people on this planet who are incarcerated, even though we have less than 5% of the world's population.

In the LA Times article about his January 6, 2010 speech, the reporters state that "lawmakers have been unable to trim the corrections budget for years. Voters and politicians alike have approved years of stiffer sentences and stricter rules for parolees -- driving up the prison population. The result has been a prison network bursting at the seams, with federal judges taking control of prisoners' healthcare and ordering the state to either release tens of thousands of inmates or boost prison spending by billions. Lawmakers so far have chosen to keep spending."

This is partly true and partly false. The public has been systematically misled into believing that it is making itself safer by supporting more punitive laws and policies. Survey data of the public indicate that when asked if they support alternatives to prisons and capital punishment, a surprising majority favor alternatives. But the voters aren't offered these options by public officials, so they end up choosing based on distorted information and truncated options.

While I welcome Arnold's rhetoric about education versus prisons, it would have been nice if in 2006 when people tried to repeal the most problematic portions of Three Strikes (Prop 66) Arnold had backed this. Prior to the vote those in favor of changing Three Strikes were in the majority. Arnold came out against Prop 66 and played a major role in turning the tide to defeat it. Three Strikes has proven to be extraordinarily expensive and, contrary to most people's expectations and beliefs, two-thirds of those sentenced to the third strike have been for non-violent, non-serious offenses.

From FACTS (Families to Amend California's Three Strikes), July 19, 2009:

The Justice Policy Institute estimates the costs of enforcing the Three-Strikes law between March 1994 and September 2003 was $8.1 billion. Of that amount, $4.9 billion is paying for inmates serving for nonviolent offenses.

California's prison population has increased sevenfold in the past 25 years because of America's "war on drugs". In 1980 California housed 25,000 prisoners, today it's over 175,000 and while it is appropriate to put violent offenders away for a long time, prisons are overcrowded mainly because so many marginal activities have been criminalized. If we're serious about creating a more humane society and a prison system that is not simply a graduate school in how to get away with it the next time, we need to look at reforming drug laws, the "three strikes" law, and harsh sentences for marginally harmful activities.

At a cost of $1 million to incarcerate each prisoner (more if they're elderly or sick), Californians are finally recognizing the billions for prisons is an expense the state cannot afford.

In 2004, Proposition 66 would have averted the present budget crisis by limiting felonies that triggered the second and third strike to violent or serious crimes. It would have eliminated residential burglary from the list of serious felonies that qualify as strikes (except when prosecutors prove someone was in the home at the time of the burglary). It would have also allowed prosecutors to count only one strike per prosecution instead of one strike per conviction, as current law requires, and it would have increased penalties for child molesters.

Instead of supporting Proposition 66, you stood with Henry Nicholas III to defeat Proposition 66 by alleging "over 26,000 "murderers and rapists" would be released into the community."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

An Invitation to Share Experiences

I invite all visitors to leave accounts of their experiences and observations regarding the changes that have been occurring in our universities. For example, faculty could share what has been happening to the faculty-student ratio, the difficulties that students report in getting into classes, the actions and statements of their campus administrators, the impact of No Child Left Behind on the students' preparation for critical thinking in college, and so on. If any students wish to leave comments that would be most helpful as well.

Sharing these stories and analyses will be very helpful to us collectively and can also be drawn upon for possible use in the Master White Paper.