The California Bureau of State Audits office completed an audit of the University of California over the summer for accountability in its partnership agreement with the state of California.
In May 2000, the UC signed a partnership agreement with the state for an annual 4 percent increase in the state’s General Fund. In exchange, the University promised to make progress in eight areas and work toward meeting 22 objectives aimed at improving access to education and overall academic quality. Most funds were not designated for specific purposes.
Auditors found that due to a lack of measurable targets, the University had a “limited” ability to demonstrate its success in using state funds to achieve the objectives of the partnership agreement.
Auditors found that only nine objectives were measurable and, of those, the University had met three. The University could not meet two of these objectives due to factors outside of its control, including the state’s decrease in funding for the signed agreement.
The auditors said they could not evaluate the remaining four objectives because they have time deadlines in the future and the other 13 objectives did not have “clear and measurable targets.”
“If the University is concerned that it will be expected to meet a measurable target when it has not received the related funds or when factors outside its control impede its progress, it should propose that as circumstances change it can revise the targets,” the audit said.
The University does not agree with the auditors about what is assessable.
“The report is very clear about the Bureau’s position not to assess the UC’s progress on specific accountability goals unless the goal as written in the agreement includes a quantifiable target and a deadline by which the goal is to be achieved,” said UC President Richard Atkinson in the UC comment section of the audit. “While we understand that some aspects of performance may not satisfy certain audit criteria, we maintain assessment is possible if progress is demonstrable.”
California State Auditor Elaine Howle said in her comments on the response from the University of California that quantifiable targets are necessary if the desired extent of intended progress is to be measured.
The audit also found that the UC allocated more to support staff salaries than to academic staff salaries.
“The University values the key roles played by professional staff and recognizes that relying upon a mixture of faculty and staff is the most cost-effective way to manage the University’s limited resources,” Atkinson said.
The audit also discovered discrepancies in the course-to-faculty ratio objective.
UC defines a primary course as a regularly scheduled, unit-bearing course, usually labeled as a lecture or seminar. In the partnership agreement, the UC agrees to maintain an average workload of 4.8 primary courses per faculty. The University’s instructional report states that for the academic year 1999-2000, the last year included in the audit, the course-to-faculty ratio was 4.9.
The auditors found that 13 percent of primary courses taught by regular faculty had enrollments of two students or fewer, and an additional 15 percent had enrollments of between three and five students.
In their analysis of the student primary courses with two students or fewer, auditors were unable to demonstrate that the UC had correctly classified 33 percent as primary courses rather than independent study courses.
In the UC’s comments on the audit, Atkinson said the UC would look into the matter.
“The University will examine carefully the classes identified as having one to two students and will remove from the reported count any that should not be defined as classes, categorizing them properly as independent study, if that is what they are,” Atkinson said.
The UC said the most important thing revealed in the audit was proof that it had not misallocated any funds from the partnership agreement.
In September of 2001, Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza (D-55th District) requested that state auditors examine the UC’s allocation of state funds for instruction, research, administration and summer sessions. She did not believe the accountability reports regularly submitted to the Legislature by the University adequately measured the UC’s progress toward meeting the objectives.
“The key finding, from our point of view, is the fact that after a nine-month exhaustive review, the auditors did not find any reason to express a concern about the spending of state funds that was in a manner inconsistent with the purposes for which the funds were provided,” UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said.
Howle said the auditors were not looking for misallocation of funds in this audit.
“We reviewed the increased state funding it received under the partnership agreement and how the University allocated these funds,” she said. “However, we did not review how funds were spent by the campuses, contractors, directors or others that the University used to accomplish the specific purposes for which the Governor and the Legislature provided the funds,” she said.