Study: Undergrads pay 95 percent of UC costs

    UC students are paying alarmingly high tuition fees for their university education, according to a new study conducted by a retired UC Berkeley physics professor.

    While the UC Regents’ 2005-06 budget report states that students in the state’s top public university pay for just 30 percent of their education’s cost, the report by professor emeritus Charles Schwartz — titled “Student Fees: Approaching the Limit” — states that undergraduates are paying 95 percent of the costs associated with their attendance at a UC campus.

    “If you were to ask me what signal I can imagine most clearly designates the transition from public to private status, I would say [it’s] when undergraduate student fees cross the line of paying for more than 100 percent of the actual cost of their education at the institution,” Schwartz states in the report. “The calculation reported in this paper says that we at UC are approaching the limit right now. Faculty and administrators had better face up to that fact.”

    Calculations provided in Schwartz’s report, released in November 2004, are higher than official UC numbers because they consider fewer programs and services funded by the university.

    “My report focuses on undergraduate education, as separated from graduate education and faculty research,” said Schwartz, who successfully sued the UC Board of Regents to gain access to data on employee pensions and has often been critical of the regents. “My number is so much less than official UC statements because they bundle all those other missions together — which gives a very misleading picture.”

    However, UC Office of the President spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina criticized Schwartz’s numbers, saying that calculating the cost of attendance for one student was not possible with the data available.

    “[Schwartz] has come up with another calculation that’s based on a lot of assumptions,” Poorsina told the Daily Bruin. “He assumes a lot of data because he doesn’t have access to a lot of it.”

    The importance of UC faculty research has created a rift of understanding between faculty and public minds, Schwartz stated in his report. While faculty members have been most valued for their research activities, the public is most concerned about the undergraduate education provided to students. However, state budget problems have resulted in legislative cuts to university budgets, which forced UC universities to raise student fees in hopes of recovering lost revenue, Schwartz stated.

    “Research and teaching are both important functions — which a public research university performs for the public good,” he said. “The state used to pay for all of that. Now some cost is being shifted to undergraduate students — to pay for their own education. But they should not be required to pay also for the other public functions that UC provides.”

    The issue of student fees is growing more urgent because of impending hikes, Schwartz said. When the 8-percent fee raise approved by the regents for next year is taken into account, the burden on undergraduates will be at or above 100 percent of what their education actually costs, Schwartz said.

    “I think that is unconscionable,” Schwartz said. “At least UC should be honest and say where their money goes — that means, accept my calculation or provide their own.”

    Poorsina said the university could not provide an exact estimate of per-student costs.

    Schwartz’ analysis was based on economic logic and official UC data provided in university publications, he said.

    “I have asked UC officials to meet with me if they disbelieve any part of my work. I’m still waiting for a response,” Schwartz said.

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