Letters to the Editor

    Undergrads Misled About Tuition Costs

    Dear Editor:

    In the latest UC Regents’ budget issued in November 2006, one finds (on page 71) a diagram along with text that says: “”The average expenditure per student for a UC education [is] $17,030 in 2006-07,”” and it also says that students “”currently pay 30 percent of the cost of their education.””

    These same assertions are repeated on page 99 of the budget, and again on page 236, so we know that this is considered very important information – but is it true?

    We know that most of the student fees referred to here come from undergraduate students; and most people reading this official statement about the UC expenditure per student for education would believe this is also telling us about the cost of undergraduate education. But that is far from the truth.

    Based upon my own studies of University of California accounting records and correspondence on this subject with the Office of the President, I can tell you that that figure of $17,030 per student per year is the expenditure for a lot more than undergraduate education. It actually covers the cost of three major missions of this university: undergraduate education plus graduate education plus faculty research. This is the total cost of what they call the “”instruction and research”” budget, along with related support and overhead expenses.

    If you want to know how much of that expenditure actually goes to undergraduate education, you must disaggregate that bundle of costs. This is a controversial topic, which university officials prefer to avoid. I have done such a detailed calculation, relying on a variety of official UC data sources, and my answer is that undergraduate student fees are now at the level of 100 percent of the actual cost of undergraduate education. It is not 30 percent of the cost that students and their families are required to pay us, but 100 percent.

    While there may be some quibbles about the details of my calculation, there is no doubt that the official numbers, as quoted from the regents’ budget, are grossly misleading. If the concept of maintaining the public trust has any currency here, then I hope that responsible leaders will make the effort to correct this dishonest situation. You have a duty to tell the people of California, honestly, how you spend the money you collect.

    – Charles Schwartz

    Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley

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