I am looking over a pile of form letters and going over emails of anguish, all decrying the cuts in state government. Indeed, I just got my regular alumnus email note from the UC system — outraged over the destruction of the university through massive budget cuts. Of course, there is very little self-reflection in all of this furor. Not one of these notices suggests, “There is no money left. It does not grow on trees. Look in the mirror.”
You, the Greedy — Not Us, the Anointed
No, nothing is much said about the gargantuan number of UC administrators, their pay, the percentage of administrative costs in the budget, the number of non-academic employees serving in the system, or any explanation why the rate of annual increase in the university budget has consistently over the years exceeded the rate of inflation — in many years at twice the rate of inflation. Taxes climb; guaranteed federal loans that pay tuition expand; state borrowing increases; standards decline; admissions increase; life is good — so why worry?
“They” did it!
Instead the modus operandi is to cite students turned away, classes canceled, programs slashed — never any sense that the first cuts should be vice chancellors, associate provosts, assistants to the president, and other top echelon administrators — absences in many cases that would not affect the quality of instruction. Slash UC administrators by 50%, make all UC professors teach 2 classes per semester (those at CSU teach 4), cut out “support” personnel in various centers, end tenure — and at least some of the crisis would ease.
From my 21 years in the CSU system, I can attest that most of the “centers for…” and “assistants to” and “offices of” could easily be terminated. Both UC and CSU have vastly increased the percentage of non-academic, non-teaching expenditures in their budgets — the expanding number of non-instructional employees subsidized by both increased taxes and the exploitive use of part-time and graduate student instructors, who teach at well less than half the pay of normal faculty and now at some campuses account for nearly 40% of the total offered units. (Remember that the next time a tenured professor rails about pay inequity at Wal-Mart).
In general now, University of California students are furious with tuition raises, rioting even at Berkeley. Teachers are angry about cutbacks. State employee unions blast the airways with ads complaining about a scarcity of funds.
So bear with me with a bit.
The cost to attend a University of California flagship campus — room, board, and tuition — is about a third of what is charged by a private, comparable institution in California like Stanford or USC — roughly some $15-20,000 in total costs versus around $50,000 per year. Public higher education is a good deal, in other words.
California public school teachers make on average the highest salaries in the United States, several thousands higher than those in Massachusetts or Connecticut, and about $20,000 more a year than in a place like Maine or Kansas. On average, government employees, state and federal, nationwide make about 50% more (in salary, pension, and benefits) than their counterparts in the private sector. I realize that if one reaches the very top of private enterprise, one can make more than a high-earning state or federal bureaucrat; but, in general, across the spectrum, it is far preferable to work for government, besides the job security, higher pension, and better working conditions.