Public University Bargains for Affluent Students

While everyone likes to gripe about the cost of college, in the world of state flagship universities true bargains exist.

UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley, are two of them. The tuition at each of those schools is below $7,000. In comparison, Harvard’s tuition is more than $36,000.

The protests against annual rises at state institutions, however, has masked a financial inequity issue that many administrators in the higher ed world talk about among themselves.

Inexpensive flagships (at least in comparison to comparable private institutions) favor the rich. That’s because the tuition doesn’t reflect what it really costs to educate a student. And the subsidy that a millionaire’s kid from Beverly Hills gets to attend Berkeley is huge when you consider that his family would likely have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars more each year if he had gone to a private institution. The tuition that students pay at Berkeley, by the way, only covers about a quarter of the cost.

What some flagships are exploring is passing along a surcharge to wealthier families to bring desperately needed revenue into their institutions while beefing up their financial aid programs for middle-class and low-income students. What schools envision are along the lines of  a ” high tuition, high financial aid” approach that private schools heavily depend on.

The University of Wisconsin is heading toward that approach. The flagships just unveiled the so-called Madison Initiative for Undergraduates, which would add an extra $1,000 to the tab of Wisconsin kids whose families make at least $80,000 and an extra $3,000 for non-residents.

Out here in California, …Robert Birgeneau, Berkeley’s chancellor, has also been making noise about wanting the freedom to raise his school’s tuition. The chancellor has proposed that all the University of California campuses have the ability to raise or lower tuition on the UC campuses by up to 25% and use the proceeds to boost financial aid and increase faculty pay .

Not surprisingly, Berkeley is finding it hard to maintain its world-class operations when the tuition is low and state support continues to shrink. Over the last 30 years or so, state funding per student has dropped by about 40%.

“If we were to increase fees, the fee income would have to be used exclusively for faculty salaries and to decrease the net cost for both poor and middle-class students,” Birgeneau said. “It would increase the public character of Berkeley by reducing the debt load of poor and middle-class students.”

You’ll learn more about college trends by reading The College Solution.

Further Reading:

Getting an Academic Bargain Across State Lines

Getting a Break on Out-of-State Tuition

University of California Admission Changes

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  1. UCB Chancellor Birgeneau Loss of Trust, Credibility
    The UCB budget gap has grown to $150 million, and still the Chancellor is spending money that isn’t there on expensive outside consultants. His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the “innovative thinking, expertise, and new knowledge” the consultants would bring.

    Does this mean that the faculty and management of a world-class research and teaching institution lack the knowledge, impartiality, innovation, and professionalism to come up with solutions? Have they been fudging their research for years? The consultants will glean their recommendations from interviewing faculty and the UCB management that hired them; yet solutions could be found internally if the Chancellor were doing the job HE was hired to do. Consultant fees would be far better spent on meeting the needs of students.

    There can be only one conclusion as to why creative solutions have not been forthcoming from the professionals within UCB: Chancellor Birgeneau has lost credibility and the trust of the faculty as well as of the Academic Senate leadership that represents them. Even if the faculty agrees with the consultants’ recommendations – disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy – the underlying problem of lost credibility and trust will remain.

  2. Current Threats to University of California Don’t Come From the Outside – $3 Million Mismanagement Spending by UC President Yudof for University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau to Hire Consultants – When Work Can Be Done Internally & Impartially
    During the days of the Great Recession, every dollar in higher education counts. Contact Chairwoman Budget Sub-committee on Education Finance Assemblywoman Carter 916.319.2062 – tell her to stop the $3,000,000 spending by Birgeneau on consultants.
    Do the work internally at no additional costs with UCB Academic Senate Leadership (C. Kutz/F. Doyle), the world – class professional UCB faculty/ staff, & the UCB Chancellor’s bloated staff (G. Breslauer, N. Brostrom, F. Yeary, P. Hoffman, C. Holmes etc) & President Yudof.
    President Yudof’s UCB Chancellor should do the high paid work he is paid for instead of hiring expensive East Coast consults to do the work of his job. ‘World class’ smart executives like Chancellor Birgeneau need to do the hard work analysis, and make the tough-minded difficult, decisions to identify inefficiencies.
    Where do the $3,000,000 consultants get their recommendations?
    From interviewing the UCB senior management that hired them and approves their monthly consultant fees and expense reports. Remember the nationally known auditing firm who said the right things and submitted recommendations that senior management wanted to hear and fooled the public, state, federal agencies?
    $3 million impartial consultants never bite the hands (Chancellor Birgeneau/ Chancellor Yeary) that feed them!
    Mr. Birgeneau’s accountabilities include “inspiring innovation, leading change.” Instead of deploying his leadership and setting a good example by doing the work of his Chancellor’s job, Birgeneau outsourced his work to the $3,000,000 consultants. Doesn’t he engage UC and UC Berkeley people at all levels to examine inefficiencies and recommend $150 million of trims? Hasn’t he talked to Cornell and the University of North Carolina – which also hired the consultants — about best practices and recommendations that eliminate inefficiencies?
    No wonder the faculty, staff, students, Senate & Assembly are angry and suspicious.
    In today’s Great Recession three million dollars is a irresponsible price to pay when a knowledgeable ‘world-class’ UCB Chancellor and his bloated staff do not do the work of their jobs.
    Pick up the phone and call: save $3 million for students!