Exploring Funding Options for the University of California by John Aubrey Douglass

Despite massive cuts in state funding over the past thirty years, the University of California has managed to keep enrollment on pace with growth in population.  With California’s population projected to grow 22.5 percent (from 40 to 49 million by 2040), that will no longer be the case, unless UC is able to find a new funding model. Informed by the historical analysis in the report Approaching a Tipping Point: A History and Prospectus of Funding for the University of California, this essay revisits the options for funding UC from that report, including: reinvestment by California lawmakers and a proposed general bond measure for capital construction; increasing research funding to help subsidize teaching and public service programs; revising the indirect-cost agreement with the State of California; raising undergraduate tuition and fees for upper income students and establishing tuition pricing model tiered by student family income; explore differential fees by major; and reducing the percentage of UC undergraduate tuition income that is “returned-to-aid” in favor of increased fundraising for financial aid. All relate to two central questions: a) can UC afford to grow in its enrollment and academic programs with the state’s population and needs? and b) how to identify new sources of revenue and pursue management efficiencies to reduce operating and capital costs? Without a substantial boost in income from the state or other sources, UC may be approaching a crossroads, where it continues to grow in enrollment without adequate funding, or where it instead chooses to halt or limit growth to focus on maintaining quality and productivity, but with serious consequences for California. Any significant state reinvestment will depend on the new California governor. Governors in the past have been key players in creating and building California’s pioneering higher education system.  A new governor should have ambitions for higher education that match those of Californians. 
Keywords: Higher Education Finance, University of California, Public Universities 
Publication date: 
November 2, 2018
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)