This week, the UC Office of the President presented its second Annual Accountability Report to the UC Board of Regents.

The report assesses the extent to which the University has met its core goals and seeks to gauge system-wide performance by evaluating data from nine sectors that include affordability, student success, research and diversity. The results of the 2010 report indicate that the UC’s educational quality, access and diversity are all at risk in light of the recent cuts in state funding.

The UCOP found that the cost of an undergraduate education in 2008-09 remained constant for both independent and low-income students. Additionally, the report revealed that the proportion of UC undergraduates in debt also remained steady at almost 52 percent.

According to UCOP Spokesperson Leslie Sepuka, the accountability reports have helped generate unique and innovative alternatives to increasing student fees.

“We have been working on other levers that can be pulled to reduce costs and raise revenues, but we won’t see the effects for another year or so,” Sepuka said. “In spite of the cuts, we are still a world-class research institution.”

UCSB’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Michael Young said it is imperative to investigate how the budget cuts affect the most vulnerable UC students.

“I think the jury is still out as to the long term effects, but first generation and low-income students, almost by definition, are going to be hurt as a result,” Young said. “If you look at the loss of access to the university broadly because of enrollment cutbacks, this always negatively affects these populations. Of course, I’m very concerned about that.”

The report also showed that system-wide admissions dropped in 2009 — from 2,300 freshmen during Fall Quarter of 2009 to 1,500 freshmen for Fall Quarter of 2010 — due to the university’s policy of curbing admission to counter a lack of state funding.

Although the report provides a constructive guideline, Joel Michaelsen, UCSB’s Academic Senate Chair and contributor to the report, said it’s difficult to project how effective the counteractive measures will prove to be.“One idea of doing the report is to make us rationally look at the outcomes of what we do,” Michaelsen said. “I think that the reports will become particularly useful as we release them over a number of years and are able to track the effects of any changes made.”

Despite the fairly positive findings, the UCOP also discovered that minorities — including African Americans, American Indians and Chicano/Latinos — are drastically underrepresented among students, faculty and staff.

Young said the report may help the Office of Student Affairs better identify student needs.
“We like to think that we’re always trying to use information that is available to respond to the students’ real needs,” Young said. “We like to look at what the impacts of our judgments are, if they are addressing the real needs of the student body and the nuances that different populations of students bring.”