University of California students, faculty and staff claim the UC has failed to give proper expenditure reports, as required by California law, and that the UC’s credibility in possibly raising tuition is diminished for this reason.
Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill No. 94 (AB 94) in July 2013, requiring the UC to report on the separated costs of delivering undergraduate and graduate instruction and research by Oct. 1. UC President Janet Napolitano requested a one-month extension on the deadline and sent out a preliminary report on Oct. 31.
UC Berkeley professor emeritus of physics Charles Schwartz said he studied the report and determined that the expenditures demonstrate “bad accounting.” According to Schwartz, the preliminary report did not separate out the costs of undergraduate education, graduate education and faculty research as required by AB 94.
“[The UC] continues to present just the big bundle of costs all tied together, and they even try to add additional costs on to that, beyond what they have done for twenty years,” Schwartz said. “It is as if a liar is caught and then has to tell bigger and bigger lies to cover themselves.”
According to Schwartz, the cost of undergraduate education in the UC’s preliminary report is contradictory to his own extensive independent report. He said that although the UC’s figures show that there is room for further increases in undergraduate tuition, Schwartz’s figures reveal that undergraduate students are now paying for more than 100 percent of the actual cost of their education.
“How can one justify that overcharge, let alone increasing tuition even further?” Schwartz said.
UC Office of the President spokesperson Steve Montiel said the UC’s expenditures are not as relevant as the results that come from them, which include a high graduation rate among students, campuses with world-class rankings, student innovation and community service and breakthrough research.
“What matters most is not the details of what is being spent,” Montiel said in an email, “but the outcomes.”
University of California Student Association president Jefferson Kuoch-Seng said that he feels the UC’s preliminary report was not informative enough for students to feel comfortable with how the UC is spending its money.
“[The UC] has not been transparent in that they put out very vague information. There were no specific breakdowns [of expenditures],” Kuoch-Seng said. “Students are really disappointed in regards to their credibility.”
UC Berkeley Associated Students External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn said the UC’s inadequate compliance with guidelines of AB 94 has sparked skepticism from students towards the UC’s plan to raise tuition five percent over the next five years.
“The students and the state both know very little about how money is spent at the UC, which is troubling,” Quinn said. “The UC should be doing more to comply with existing law if it is going to demand ransom for the students they’re taking hostage with this plan [to raise tuition].”
Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 (AFSCME 3299, a labor union that represents approximately 20,000 UC employees, said the possible tuition hike is uncalled for in light of the mistakes made in the expenditure reports.
“The UC is attempting to force students to pay for the mistakes and mismanagement of the administration,” Stenhouse said. “Before you can make a judgment about whether more tuition or revenue is needed, you need to know what you’re spending money on.”
According to Montiel, however, a tuition raise is necessary in sustaining the positive reputation of the UC.
“The key question is what it takes to continue supporting a public research university that is widely acknowledged as the best in the world,” Montiel said in an email. “What will matter most is what kind of University of California will be in place to serve future generations.”
But Stenhouse said that two months ago the UC gave 20 percent raises to five UC chancellors with annual salaries of $300,000 and that improper spending by the UC is not in line with its mission to provide a safe, affordable and accessible education to students.
“[The UC’s] mission is not tied to how many yachts are owned by its executive class,” Stenhouse said. “At a certain point, the spirit of public service needs to trump all others . . . This is not AIG. This is not Goldman Sachs. This is a public university.”