State orders audit of UC spending

The California Bureau of State Audits began a six-month process last week to determine whether funding provided by the state legislature last year has been used in accordance with restrictions placed on the money’s use.

The audit was requested by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, at a time when the state budget continues to tighten. The agreement to provide more funding for the UC system remains in place through fiscal year 2002-2003.

“”In spite of the university’s agreement to increase the quality of undergraduate education, one of its fastest-rising costs is academic administration,”” Oropeza said. “”We need to ensure that the university’s priorities are in the right place — on educating students.””

Oropeza’s request targets the UC system in light of an annual 5 percent increase in the university’s budget contingent on the university’s commitment to use the money to improve undergraduate education. The money was supposed to fund measures such as implementing a state-supported summer session program at the same per-unit cost and quality as courses offered during the regular school year.

However, a report released by legislative budget analysts for the state of California stated that 4 percent of that 5 percent base increase was not designated for specific purposes. According to the analysis, the University of California indicated that most of the funds would go to salary increases, while the remaining 1 percent would go specifically to long-term needs such as building maintenance and library materials.

The audit looks to use data from UC accounting to compare current per student funding to that of prior years. Specifically, the audit will examine how much money per student goes toward administration, research and instruction, and whether the ratio of administrative to instructional costs has been increasing despite the additional funding earmarked for undergraduate education.

UC Office of the President spokesman Paul Schwartz said that the audit itself would require a large expenditure of UC resources.

“”The audit, estimated to cost the state over $200,000 and consume 3,000 hours, is requiring the time and attention of about a dozen senior staff at UCOP,”” Schwartz said. “”It will also require the involvement of a handful of senior staff at each campus. Naturally, there’s a cost to the [University of California] associated with that kind of involvement — exactly how much remains to be seen.””

Schwartz also said that the University of California already provides the state legislature with a variety of accountability and spending reports

“”Given the accountability reports on undergraduate education we already submit and the fact that UC continues to meet its enrollment figures, this audit may represent some redundancy,”” Schwartz said.

Officials from the state audit office said that the audit is still in its infancy.

“”This is one of our larger audits,”” said Chief Deputy State Auditor Steve Hendrickson. “”We’ve just started at the very beginning, and we’re not even a week into it.””

Hendrickson said that the estimated 2,990 hours of manpower needed for the audit would take about six months to conclude. There is no specified requested completion date.

The California State Auditor is a nonpartisan, independent agency within the executive branch of California’s government. The Joint Auditing Committee, which includes members of the State Senate and the State Assembly, agreed in late September to grant Oropeza’s request for an audit of the system.

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