University of California: A Fading Reputation?

The University of California has been living on a starvation diet for a long time. For the past 18 years, state support for the campuses has dropped 40% and now Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed draconian mid-year cuts.

In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle today, Stanton Glantz, a prominent UC professor, had this to say:

I think what you’re seeing is the destruction of the University of California as an institution. I really think there needs to be a serious debate in California; Does the state want to have a public university system or not?

The bleak news from California triggered a lot of discussion this past week on the list serve of the National Association of College Admissions Counseling. Some high school counselors on the East Coast wanted to know how the UC financial crisis would impact out-of-state applicants.

I was surprised by the question because it’s not often that people want to rush into a burning building.

Sure UC Berkeley enjoys a great reputation and national ranking. So does UCLA, but shouldn’t these teenagers be asking themselves if they want to go to these schools? I don’t think they are asking the question because they are blinded by reputations that may no longer be deserved.

These schools are not cheap for outsiders. For out-of-staters, UC schools will cost more than $41,000 a year. Despite the price tag, there is a good chance these kids won’t graduate in four years — the UC campuses are too jammed with kids.

In a recent post I mentioned my conversation with a UCLA professor who said the university has run out of large lecture halls to fit undergraduates. Someone who  attended UC Berkeley recently swears that some classrooms have 1,000 seats. And she says that wasn’t enough so the school mounted televisions in the corridors.

Is anybody else appalled by this?

I guess what I’d tell the kids eager to attend UCLA or UC Berkeley or any other state university in California, be careful what you wish for.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she writes about college for

Further Reading:

The Shrinking Odds of Getting Into UC Berkeley

University of California Admission Changes

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  1. The UCs (I am an alum) have a high cost process as do the Ivys (and other private institutions). A UC education is a comparative bargain as a result of state subsidies. Those are falling as you note. That said, price quality at least within a certain range. My MBZ is a high cost, and high quality car. I also own a Toyota which does much the same job, and costs less to maintain and operate. If the UC can dump the insane over-regulation which is imposed on it, and stick it’s core missions, then it will do fine. I note that Harvard’s endowment ain’t doing great lately, either. That said, it’s quite clear that the cost differential of the Ivy’s is way out of line with any conceivable difference in quality (Ivy’s cost 100% more than the UCs).

    1. RKV,

      Actually, while I’m not a big fan of the Ivy League schools — I think they are overrated — they do provide a great value for many students. Many families will pay less to attend a school like Harvard or Princeton than they would UC Berkeley, UCLA and UCSD. And the students at these private schools will graduate in four years, which is not the case with the majority of state universities in California. Sticker prices are meaningless.

      My son will be attending a $41,000 private college in the fall and the cost will be lower than a UC school.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  2. So what?, Get used to it. UC has lost a gravy train of money and as a consequence prestige. UC is unable to compete with their perceived competitors, along with institutions that UC has dissed for years as inferior. The Harvard-Yale-Stanford places do what they do very well and they should continue to do that. But that is not what UC is (and maybe never really was). As I said, get used to it. Do the teaching, resarch and public service and quit your bitching.