Davis Faculty Association

Archive for 2008

News item re: sexual harassment training mandate

by Ian Kennedy

From the November 21 issue of Science, the following item suggested that harassment training may not be easily dismissed:

ON CAMPUS A HARD STAND.

A biochemistry professor at the University of California, Irvine, has been disciplined for refusing to undergo state mandated training on sexual harassment. Alexander McPherson, who says participating in such training would cast aspersions on his character, can no longer supervise the two researchers in his lab—both men. The university is enforcing a 2004 California law that requires all state employees in managerial positions at large businesses to receive the training— typically a 2-hour session—once every 2 years. McPherson thinks the mandatory attendance is ineffective and impinges on academic freedom. “Once you gain tenure, you’re supposed to be protected against various sorts of social, political, and even scientific pressures,” he says. The matter is far from settled. Last week, McPherson skipped another training session, a move that he says could cost him his job. University officials would not say what action, if any, they plan to take next.

Ian Kennedy’s note to Barbara Boxer

by Ian Kennedy

I wanted to share with you this message I sent to Senator Barbara Boxer regarding federal fiscal stimulus plans:

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Senator Boxer:

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of the people of California; they are certainly appreciated. However, I feel it is important to bring another important issue to the attention of policy makers – the parlous state of public higher education. I am the Chair of the Davis Faculty Association and I represent the faculty of UC Davis. Our organization is not promoting our narrow self-interest; on the contrary, we are passionately advocating for sustaining the promise to the people of California that a previous generation supported.

The public universities of California educate far larger numbers of future teachers, doctors, engineers, artists, writers and others than any private university can hope to educate. Our system of public higher education has been withering from continuing diminution of state support. While we may not offer the sort of near-instant stimulus that so-called “shovel ready projects” offer, we can offer “learning-ready” students. They will contribute to the economic output of the state and university within a couple of years.

I urge you to include higher education within the mix of projects that will help rebuild our economy quickly after a period of disastrous malign neglect.

Fwd: Higher Education Investment Act ad in the New York Times (Dec. 16, 2008)

Dear Colleagues,

For your information, please find below the text of an open letter to President-Elect Barack Obama and his administration in support of federal investment in higher education facilities development, published as a full-page ad in the New York Times on December 16, pages A-12 & 13. This ad was developed by a consortium of higher education leaders convened by the Carnegie Foundation and was paid for by the Foundation. University of California President Mark Yudof is among the signatories.

Sincerely, David Gardner, MD
Chair, UCSF Academic Senate

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A Statement by Public Higher Education Leaders Convened
by Carnegie Corporation of New York

At this critical juncture in our history, America’s public research universities, state colleges, and community colleges stand ready to partner with the federal government and our states to help revitalize our nation’s economy and educate and train the next generations of Americans to meet the challenges of global competition. America’s colleges and universities, public and private, have always worked in the service of our nation, contributing to our social, economic, scientific, cultural, and technological preeminence by educating millions of citizens who contribute to every sector of society. Today, with millions of students, thousands of laboratories, and outreach that touches countless communities in rural and urban America, the great institutions of public higher education, along with our sister institutions in the private sector, have the capacity to produce the people, ideas, tools, solutions, and knowledge infrastructure our economy needs to regain its momentum and to set a new trajectory.

The current economic crisis poses a major challenge. Thirty-one of fifty states are underfunded for their 2009 budgets. As a result, states and municipalities are forced to cut workforces and spending, as well as investment in our institutions of higher education. These measures have ripple effects on the economy and our nation’s progress.

As Congress and the Executive Branch consider an economic stimulus initiative, it is critical that any legislation include a substantial investment in states and their educational systems, particularly public higher education. That investment initially should focus on infrastructure: building essential classroom and research buildings and equipping them with the latest technologies. Construction of green facilities would meet both the economic and the environmental priorities of the incoming administration. Federal funding of much-needed construction and renovation projects on public campuses and on those private campuses that qualify for such investment would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and have a direct and immediate impact on economic activity beyond the dollars expended.

The United States cannot surmount its growing education challenges without strong public universities and community colleges and a healthy private education sector. Public institutions educate about 80 percent of all college students, and carry an even larger responsibility for the nation’s training and adult-education programs. They have the scale and transformative power to contribute to the security of our nation’s future.

Our nation is losing ground on a number of fronts critical to our future prosperity and national security. The United States has fallen from first place among nations to tenth in the percentage of our population with higher education degrees. Without a vision for education transformation, we will continue to slide. For the first time in our history, the cohort of Americans ages 25 to 34 is less well educated than the older cohorts that preceded it. We cannot accept such dangerous signs that our future prosperity and security will be weaker than our past.

Most troubling, the two fastest growing groups in our population have the lowest college graduation rates: only 37 percent for black Americans who start college and 44 percent for Hispanics who start college. Moreover, American schools and colleges are inexcusably deficient in providing fair educational opportunities to our poorest students. Furthermore, since 1986, college tuition and fees have risen nearly three times as fast as the median family income, after adjusting for inflation. At public universities during this period, increases in tuition and fee revenue have not translated into increased spending per student but rather have been used primarily to meet inflation as well as to offset decreases in state appropriations to public higher education. This presents a major challenge not only to our poorest students but also to the middle class.

Today, only the federal government has the resources and vision to meet these threats to America’s future. We applaud President-elect Obama’s commitment to make college more affordable and accessible by increasing Pell grants, increasing access to student loans, and extending the grace period for their repayment. These are essential steps to make American colleges and universities once again the most democratic and accessible in the world. They are particularly critical for public institutions, which are struggling with diminishing state funding that supports less and less the cost of educating students.

At critical times in our nation’s history, the federal government has had the vision to secure America’s future with educational excellence and opportunity. In 1862, in the darkest days of the Civil War — the war in which more Americans died than any other — President Lincoln and Congress had the foresight to enact the Morrill Land-Grant College Act, setting aside 17,400,000 acres to the states to provide for the establishment of public agriculture and mechanical arts universities in the states. At the same time, Lincoln established the National Academy of Sciences. The celebrated public universities created under this act, and their successors, have carried the greatest weight of higher education’s contributions to the nation ever since. At the end of World War II, the most destructive and expensive war in history, Congress and President Truman conceived the G.I. Bill, providing the financial aid necessary for every returning military man and woman to go to college. This was the foundation for democratic access to higher education in the United States. At the same time, and under the most severe financial pressures, the federal government undertook responsibility for the long-term funding of the world’s greatest scientific research effort, to be undertaken by America’s diverse and competitive universities. There are other examples of the federal government’s vision in securing America’s future through higher education, such as the Pell grants, which extended the democratic promise of the G.I. Bill to all Americans, and the creation and funding of the National Institutes of Health, which has made the United States the leader in biomedical research and innovation. Even though America is again facing a time of crisis, the political leaders of today must exercise no less vision for higher education than the greatest leaders of the past whose vision has enabled American colleges and universities to be the envy of the world.

To maintain their fundamental educational, research, and service functions and meet growing enrollment pressures, public universities must have upgraded, modern physical infrastructure that is technologically up-to-date. Many states are having difficulty meeting this challenge. (See, for example, The Decaying American Campus: A Ticking Time Bomb, Rush and Johnson, 1989; “A Fifty State Assessment of Capital Needs for Higher Education: Policy Objectives,” Facilities Manager Magazine, July/August 2001.) The needs are palpable, the challenge as great as the deterioration in K-12 infrastructure, bridges, highways, and other essential public goods and institutions. The rising cost of construction of high-tech facilities — particularly those related to health, engineering, and science — exacerbates the challenge. As nations in Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere are investing substantial government funds in basic research and development as well as new research universities, our nation, which pioneered the concept, is losing ground.

A federal infusion of capital avoids the unnecessary entanglement of the federal government in the processes of the states and the governance of public universities. We recommend that the funds be allocated to the states on the basis of population and administered by the offices of state governors for approval of projects and distribution of capital funds, subject to appropriate statutory oversight. The dollars should not be subject to appropriation by state legislatures. Federal funds should be conditional on states’ agreement not to use these federal funds as an excuse to reduce budgetary commitments to universities. To ensure a rapid response, only projects that are shovel-ready or on which construction can begin within 120-180 days should be funded. No project-by-project approval in Washington, D.C. would be necessary; no new federal bureaucracy need be created. Federal funding should be approved only in cases where states or institutions match the federal grants, contributing 20 percent of the total project cost. This will ensure that only the highest-priority projects are funded. Governors should have discretion to allocate federal funding to state-aided or private universities provided that federal funds are matched by these universities. This ratio may vary from state to state, on the basis of past practice and state priorities. Of course, governors have the prerogative to exempt community colleges, as well as historically black colleges and universities, from the matching provision.

A commitment of 5 percent of the economic stimulus package — in the range of $40 to $45 billion — toward higher education facilities will provide the stimulus that will propel the nation forward in resolving its current economic crisis and lay the groundwork for international economic competitiveness and the well-being of American families into the future.

Beyond the immediate economic stimulus and higher education’s infrastructure needs, the Obama administration, in collaboration with states, the business community, and education stakeholders from all sectors, should establish a twenty-year vision for educational attainment as part of an ambitious national strategy to ensure our continued competitiveness and security. Public universities and colleges recognize the urgency of improving education outcomes, raising graduation rates, preparing more first-rate teachers, and building human capital in science, engineering, and mathematics. The present economic crisis requires an investment in human capital, and graduates of public universities historically have provided most of the workforce to meet the nation’s needs. After all, their innovative researchers have often invented the technologies that have fueled economic progress and enhanced America’s economic competitiveness and ability to deliver high-quality health care. At the same time, public universities must remain accessible to all families, thereby providing opportunity and hope to families from all social and economic strata.

Leaders of the country’s public higher education sector are committed to create a long-term plan to serve the nation by enhancing public universities’ critical role in creating jobs, increasing graduates, enhancing the quality and skills of the workforce, and assisting in national technology and energy initiatives through research. We are grateful to Carnegie Corporation of New York for convening such an effort.

Arizona State University: Michael M. Crow, President; Fred Boice, President of the Board of Regents.The California State University; Charles B. Reed, Chancellor; Jeffrey Bleich, Chair of the Board of Trustees. The City University of New York; Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor; Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., Chair of the Board of Trustees. The Graduate Center of the City University of New York; William P. Kelly, President Oregon University System; George Pernsteiner, Chancellor; Paul Kelly, Jr., Chair of the Board of Trustees The Pennsylvania State University; Graham B. Spanier, President; James Broadhurst, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Richard L. McCormick, President State University System of Florida; Mark B. Rosenberg, Chancellor; Sheila McDevitt, Chair of the Board of Governors State University of New York; John Clark, Interim Chancellor; Carl T. Hayden, Chairman of the Board of Trustees University of Arkansas System; B. Alan Sugg, President University of California; Mark G. Yudof, President; Richard C. Blum, Chairman of the Board of Regents University of California, Berkeley; Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor University of California, Los Angeles; Gene D. Block, Chancellor University of Colorado at Boulder; G.P. “Bud” Peterson, Chancellor University of Connecticut; Michael J. Hogan, President; John W. Rowe, M.D., Chairman of the Board of Trustees University of Delaware; Patrick T. Harker, President University of Illinois; B. Joseph White, President; Lawrence C. Eppley, Chair of the Board of Trustees University of Kentucky; Lee T. Todd Jr., President University of Massachussetts; Jack M. Wilson, President University of Minnesota; Robert H. Bruininks, President University of Montana; George M. Dennison, President University of Nebraska; James B. Milliken, President University of Rhode Island; Robert L. Carothers, President University System of New Hampshire; Stephen J. Reno, Chancellor University System of Maryland; William E. Kirwan, Chancellor; Clifford M. Kendall, Chairman of the Board of Regents The University of Texas System; Kenneth I. Shine, Interim Chancellor; H. Scott Caven, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Regents University of Utah; Michael K. Young, President University of Virginia; John T. Casteen III, President; W. Heywood Fralin, Rector University of Washington; Mark A. Emmert, President; Craig W. Cole, Chairman of the Board of Regents University of Wisconsin System; Kevin P. Reilly, President; Mark J. Bradley, President of the Board of Regents West Virginia University; C. Peter Magrath, Interim President National and State Associations American Association of Community Colleges; George R. Boggs, President and CEO American Association of State Colleges and Universities; Constantine W. Curris, President American Council on Education; Molly Corbett Broad, President National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges; Peter M. McPherson, President New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities; Darryl G. Greer, Executive Director.

For nearly a century, education, our democracy and international peace have been the main concerns of Carnegie Corporation of New York. During the past decade, we have focused on several major issues of critical importance to our nation, including K-16 education, school reform, teacher education, strengthening our schools of journalism and immigrant integration. In recent years, we have become increasingly worried about the current status and the future of public higher education in our nation. In October, the Corporation invited a select but representative group of leaders of American public higher education to begin a discussion about the challenges faced by their institutions both individually and collectively. What has already become clear is that there is a pressing need to help colleges and universities in the public sector to mobilize their resources and harness their capacity in order to play a central role in rebuilding America’s economy and in meeting our society’s most crucial needs: an educated citizenry and a competent workforce. These are necessary in order to strengthen our democracy and our ability to compete in a global economy. Therefore, we present the text of the Higher Education Investment Act, which was drafted and endorsed by some of the most significant leaders in American public higher education, to President-Elect Obama, his proposed administration, and to the American public.

Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York. Thomas H. Kean, Chair Carnegie Corporation of New York, Former Governor, New Jersey. Richard W. Riley, Vice-Chair, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Former Governor, South Carolina, Former U.S. Secretary of Education.

Governor orders state employee furloughs

Yesterday, Governor Schwarzenegger issued an Executive Order to reduce state costs through unpaid furloughs for state workers. He calls for a cut of 2 days a month (a 10% pay cut). He has asked CSU and UC to do the same, although he cannot mandate this directly.

The full Executive Order is available at:

http://media.sacbee.com/smedia/2008/12/19/11/Gov_Executive_Order_12-19-081.source.prod_affiliate.4.pdf

The part relevant to UC reads: “It is requested that other entities of State government not under my direct executive authority, including the California Public Utilities Commission, the University of California, the California State University, California Community Colleges, the legislative branch (including the Legislative Counsel Bureau), and judicial branch, implement similar or other mitigation measures to achieve budget and cash savings for the current and next fiscal year.”

There are a variety of reasons why the proposed furlough program is inappropriate for UC: UC only receives a portion of its budget from the state — what level of cut would be the UC equivalent of 10% cuts to programs fully funded by the state? How do the furloughs apply to faculty who are already essentially on furlough part of the year, e.g. on 9 month or 11 month or 11.5 month appointments? The furlough is sold as a reduction in work (days worked) for a reduction in pay, would faculty workloads be reduced? Would there be a 10 percent reduction of the overhead faculty  pay on grants since the staff support etc is not in place for those days?

It seems clear that UC will not be able to make the same cuts the Governor is making to other state programs. But the Governor’s order gives UC flexibility in how it makes the cuts, so long as they save as much money: “similar or other mitigation measures to achieve budget and cash savings…” The DFA and CUCFA will be communicating with UCOP to find out how UC proposes to deal with this issue.

Kentucky’s Community Colleges Propose Eliminating Tenure and Retiree Health Insurance

One of our members found the following articles about possible changes
to tenure in Kentucky.

*Kentucky Considers Eliminating Tenure For New Hires At
Community And Technical Colleges.*

The _Louisville Courier-Journal_ (12/4) reported, “Kentucky’s state-operated community and technical colleges would eliminate tenure for new faculty and end heath insurance for new retirees as part of cost-saving measures the colleges’ Board of Regents will consider Friday.” Advocates say the policies “would allow more flexibility in hiring new staff as curriculum changes warrant, and save $57 million over 10 years.” Educators, however, contend that “eliminating tenure and benefits would erode teacher quality, by keeping away talented professors and making top educators fearful of speaking out on issues that could cost them their jobs.” The article described the current tenure system, and added that “nearly 60 percent of full-time faculty members at the nation’s two-year institutions had tenure or were on a tenure track in 2005, according to the American Association of University Professors.”
The _Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader_ (12/4, Alessi) noted that at an upcoming meeting, the regents will give the “first public airing of the idea of hiring new professors with contracts of up to four years, rather than the tenure track that essentially establishes faculty members for life.” The Herald-Leader pointed out that “the board can’t approve such a move this month because it is up for discussion only and couldn’t be acted upon until its March meeting at the earliest.” Still, “it is an idea that is being floated as an option to help the system handle ‘rapid shifts in the job market, emerging new job markets, and state budget cuts which underscored the need for flexibility,'” the board said. If the proposal is implemented, “any new hires after July 1, 2009…would be hired as either temporary ‘at will’ employees or with contracts of between one and four years,” similar to systems in Virginia, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri.

Nash Prize Nominations

Below is a copy of the call for nominations for the Nash Prize which you received in the Senate electronic mailing of December 2. I am resending it to encourage DFA members to participate in the nomination process which is outlined in the document. As indicated, the nomination deadline is February 6.

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Nash Prize Selection Committee
The Charles P. Nash Prize
2008-2009 Call for Nominations

December 1, 2008

The Davis Faculty Association, Davis Division of the Academic Senate and Davis Division of the Academic Federation invite nominations of candidates for The Charles P. Nash Prize.

The Charles P. Nash Prize is designed to reward exceptional achievement and commitment in promoting shared governance and advocacy for faculty interests and welfare.

The Prize is to be awarded annually to a member of the UC Davis Academic Senate, the Davis Faculty Association, or the Academic Federation whose actions demonstrate an exceptional and extended commitment to shared governance and/or promoting faculty interests by ensuring equitable treatment of faculty. In the spirit of Charlie Nash, such activity must be above and beyond normal committee assignments or academic obligations, typically, spanning a period of time or one’s career.

Nominations are sought from any member of the academic community: students, faculty, staff, alumni, departments or units. Eligibility: All members of the Academic Federation, Academic Senate and Davis Faculty Association who have not previously won the award are eligible. Previous nominees who have not received the award may be renominated.

The Charles P. Nash Prize is designed to reward exceptional achievement in the spirit of Charlie Nash. Examples of Charlie Nash’s achievements include:

– Using the machinery of the faculty governance process, often invoking the mechanisms of Academic Senate committees, to achieve equity for individual faculty members
– Making sure that the machinery of shared governance works well, both structurally and functionally
– Contributing to analysis of shared governance, such as the “Mending the Wall” report (http://academicsenate.ucdavis.edu/documents/shared_governance_report.pdf)
– Working with others to craft the Nash-Goldman report which made recommendations for changes in the personnel policy for Academic Federation employees (http://academicpersonnel.ucdavis.edu/acadfed/nashgoldmanreport.cfm)
– As Vice President of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, Charlie Nash supported legislation allowing faculty to assign their own texts and protecting their intellectual property rights (http://www.ucdfa.org/nash.htm)
– Mentoring and advising faculty to guide them in “finding their way thru the merit and promotion briar patch”, as well as assisting them with their personnel cases within their departments and with the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Personnel
– Serving for many years on faculty committees to advocate for faculty interests, including: Chair of the Davis Faculty Association board Vice President of External Affairs on the CUCFA board Chair of the Davis Division Academic Senate (2 terms)

The annual prize will be awarded in a public ceremony and will include a $1,000 honorarium, and a physical prize, to be determined by the Selection Committee. There will be no restriction on the prize recipient with regard to the use of the prize.

Letters of nomination accompanied by a one page list of relevant accomplishments must be submitted electronically. The Committee will rely upon material presented to it; therefore it is important that the letter and list make the best case possible within the space limitation.

Send your nomination letter electronically to Nancy Kilpatrick, Academic Senate, at: nlkilpatrick@ucdavis.edu.

The Nash Prize Selection Committee will review the nominations and will select a recipient from the original slate of candidates. The Committee is permitted to select one recipient for each academic year.

Deadline for Nominations: All nominations must be received electronically in the Academic Senate Office by 5:00 PM, Friday, February 6, 2009.

Nominations should be addressed to: The Nash Prize Selection Committee, Academic Senate Office, 402 Mrak Hall. The Committee is normally composed of Clinton Nash or her designee and a representative designated by each of the following: the Davis Faculty Association, the Davis Division Academic Senate, the Davis Division Academic Federation.

Questions concerning nominations may be addressed to Nancy Kilpatrick, Resource Analyst, Academic Senate Office (nlkilpatrick@ucdavis.edu or 752-2220).

Sincerely,

2008-2009 Nash Prize Selection Committee
Alan Jackman
Barbara Goldman
Lyn Lofland
Clinton Nash

A tid bit concerning UCOP buyout rehires

by Ian Kennedy

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle, a member spotted the following in an article about hiring:

A hardship

“‘Finally, it would be a hardship to conduct a search for this position given the urgency of the budget situation and related projects as well as the pending retirement of the incumbent,’ Raymond wrote. It is not clear whether Birgeneau approached Williams about the position, or vice versa. Neither was available for interviews.”

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/12/03/MNH614GCU0.DTL

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Could we hear similar arguments in the not too distant future?

NY Times article

In Friday’s NY Times, conservative columnist David Brook wrote about wise uses of federal stimulus funds in the Obama administration. He quoted Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School :

“Send federal money to the states, but make sure a lot of it goes to state universities. There’s going to be increased demand for their services at the same time their budgets are cut. We can’t weaken that link in the social mobility chain.

The full article is at
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/28/opinion/28brooks.html

This is an idea that the faculty of UC can certainly support.

UC Retirement Program and Budget Update

Some highly important news about UC’s budget and the UC Retirement Program (UCRP) came out of last week’s Regents meeting.

As expected, UCRP’s investment portfolio has been hard hit by the recent economic turmoil. It has been reported that the portfolio lost 24% of its value between June 30 and October 31 (this compares to a 23% loss CalPERS reported for a similar period [see http://www.sacbee.com/391/story/1393637.html]. Since this loss is in fiscal year 2008-09, it is not counted in the calculation for setting the UCRP contribution levels that begin this coming July 1, which has been set at 11.54% of payroll. If the market does not improve markedly, future contribution amounts will have to be set higher, perhaps as high as 20% of payroll.

Of the 11.54%, 2% will come from employees via a redirect of the mandatory contribution employees currently make to their DC Plan accounts. The remaining 9.54% will be the employer share. To fund the state funded portion of this employer share, UC is asking for $228 million from the state in its 2009-10 budget request.

This $228 million is the single biggest new expenditure item in the budget UC is sending to the state. The overall request is for an increase of $815 million in funding for UC — a 15% increase over the previous year, mostly from the state, but some from the student fees of additional enrollment and other sources. UCOP and the Regents consider this the minimum amount needed to maintain current quality without raising student fees given increases in enrollment and costs.

This budget proposal includes about $80 million to give ladder rank faculty a 7.5% raise (the current year budget has no faculty raise and UC faculty compensation lags its comparison institutions; UC estimates that in order to achieve parity with the comparison institutions, UC will need to provide 7.5% increases each year for three years running).

Of course, the state’s budget is deeply in the red. Avoiding a cut, much less getting an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars, will be very difficult.

The UCRP slide presentation (14 page PDF) is available at:
http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/regmeet/nov08/f10attach1.pdf

The UC budget proposal summary (30 page PDF) is at:
http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/regmeet/nov08/f6summary.pdf

The full UC budget proposal (180 page PDF) is available at:
http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/regmeet/nov08/f6current.pdf

PPIC’s Higher Ed Survey Released

PPIC’s second survey on Californians’ opinions of higher education has been released. There is a lot of useful material here for the FA’s outreach and advocacy efforts.

The full survey report is available at: http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=848

PPIC’s press release is pasted below:

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Californians Satisfied With Quality But Worried About Costs At State’s Colleges, Universities

A Decade After Affirmative Action Ban, More Than Half of Residents Say Diversity on Campus Is Very Important

SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 12, 2008 — Californians give the state’s higher education systems high marks for quality but see college costs and a lack of government funding as top issues, according to a statewide survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

At a time when the state’s economic crisis is deepening and the financial fortunes of many families have worsened, Californians see higher education as important to the futures of their own children and to the state. They are concerned that college is affordable neither for their own families nor for others.

Most parents of children ages 18 and younger (71%) say that students have to borrow too much money to go to college, and most are very or somewhat worried (72%) about their own ability to afford a college education for their youngest child. A majority of Californians (59%) and residents across regional and demographic groups say that qualified students from low-income families have less opportunity than others to get a college education. And there is evidence that this is a source of concern: Although voters banned higher education affirmative action programs a decade ago, majorities of residents today say it is very important that public colleges and universities have student bodies that are racially diverse (55%) and economically diverse (57%).

Yet residents have little faith in their leaders’ ability to meet the challenges ahead. Just 12ercent have a great deal of confidence in the state government’s ability to plan for the future of the state’s higher education system.

“Californians’ belief in the importance of higher education is strong, and their regard for the state’s educational system is high — but their trust in state leadership is low,” says Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

Californians Place High Value on College

In a national survey conducted by Public Agenda and the National Center for Policy and Higher Education last year, 50 percent of Americans said a college education was necessary for success, while 49 percent said there are many ways to succeed without going to college. By comparison, 68 percent of Californians in the PPIC survey say college is necessary and just 30 percent say there are many other ways to succeed. Latinos (84%) place a particularly high value on college. They are more likely than Asians (69%), blacks (63%), or whites (57%) to view a college education as essential. And in a PPIC Statewide Survey on K­–12 education in April, Latinos (61%) were far more likely than Asians (31%), blacks (30%), or whites (21%) to consider college preparation the most important goal of K–12 schools.

Nearly all Californians across regional, political, and demographic groups say that higher education is very or somewhat important to the state’s future economic vitality and quality of life. Latinos (80%) and blacks (74%) are the most likely to say it is very important.

Community Colleges, CSU, UC Get Good Grades

In sharp contrast to their opinions of the K-12 system, Californians have a high regard for the state’s public colleges and universities. Only a few Californians (18%) consider the quality of higher education in the state a big problem, the same percentage as in PPIC’s first survey on higher education in October 2007. By comparison, in an April PPIC survey on public schools, more than half of the state’s residents (53%) said the quality of K–12 education was a big problem.

Californians give high grades to all three branches of the higher education system: community college (51% good, 15% excellent), California State University (52% good, 10% excellent), University of California (50% good, 15% excellent).

College Costs Top List of Concerns

With an economic crisis affecting family finances, the availability of student loans, and state funding for public higher education, college costs are on the minds of Californians. An overwhelming majority (84%) say affordability is somewhat of a problem (32%) or a big problem (52%).

Californians (35%) mention cost more than any other issue as the most important one facing higher education. Cost is the primary concern among all political, regional, and demographic groups. While this level of concern is the same as PPIC found in last year’s survey on higher education, a larger percentage today cite a lack of government funding (19% vs. 14% in 2007) as the most important issue.

What is the role of government policy in making college affordable? Even though most Californians believe that students have to borrow too much money to pay for college, 72 percent say that Congress should increase the money available for loans.

Most Californians favor proposals that would make higher education more affordable. Asked about specific alternatives, overwhelming majorities favor expanding work-study opportunities (88%), increasing money for scholarships (83%), and establishing a sliding scale for tuition and fees (70%).

When it comes to saving for their children’s college education, 57 percent of parents say they haven’t saved as much as they should have, 30 percent say they are on track, and only 9 percent say they are ahead. Latino parents (63%) are much more likely than white parents (50%) to say they are behind in saving for their children’s college education.

In addition, a significant percentage of parents say they lack information about financial aid. Half (49%) say they do not have enough information, with Latinos (61%) and parents with household incomes of less than $40,000 (63%) much more likely to say so.

Differences Emerge on Equality of Opportunity, Diversity

While a majority of Californians believe that there is a disparity in educational opportunity and that student diversity on the state’s campuses is important, there are significant differences among demographic and political groups on these issues. Majorities of blacks (59%) and Latinos (53%) say racial and ethnic minorities have less opportunity to get a college education; Asians (43%) and whites (32%) are less likely to agree. Democrats (53%) are much more likely than independents (42%) and twice as likely as Republicans (25%) to say that ethnic minorities have less access to a college education.

On the issue of diversity, blacks (72%) and Latinos (67%) are much more likely than Asians (49%) and whites (47%) to say that a racially diverse student body is very important. These differences are less pronounced when it comes to the issue of economic diversity: 67 percent of Latinos, 61 percent of blacks, 51 percent of whites, and 46 percent of Asians agree that economic diversity is very important. However, Democrats (66%) and independents (59%) are far more likely than Republicans (39%) to consider economic diversity very important.

Californians Worried About Cuts But Balk at Tax Hikes With the state facing a multibillion-dollar budget gap, the governor is proposing both spending cuts and tax hikes. In a May PPIC survey, Californians were asked about the tough choices necessary to balance the budget. When it came to the area of spending they most wanted to protect from budget cuts, a strong majority of residents (61%) favored K–12 education, followed by health and human services (17%), and then higher education (12%).

Today, most Californians (83%) are concerned that the budget crisis will lead to significant cuts in funding for higher education, and more than half (54%) say spending for public colleges and universities should be a high or very high priority. Yet more than half (52%) are unwilling to pay higher taxes or to increase student fees (62%) in order to avoid such cuts. However, about half (53%) favor spending more state government money to avoid increasing tuition and fees — even if it means less money for other state programs.

State Leaders Get Poor Grades on Higher Education

Californians express low levels of trust in the way their elected officials are handling higher education. While 40 percent approve of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s overall performance ‒ the same percentage as last month — just 27 percent approve of his handling of higher education. Since October 2007, the governor’s overall approval rating has dropped by 11 points and by 7 points for his handling of higher education.

The legislature has fared worse. It gets an approval rating of just 24 percent for overall job performance (down 9 points since October 2007) and 23 percent approval for its handling of higher education (down 6 points).

More Key Findings:

* Californians take pop quiz on higher education — Page 11
Residents are largely unaware of how funding is divided among public colleges and universities. Just 29 percent correctly name the community college system as being most dependent on state funding, and 27 percent correctly choose the University of California as the least dependent. However, 45 percent correctly name the community colleges as the branch with the most diverse student population.
* Despite cost concerns, most say the price is right for community college tuition — Page 19
When told that community college tuition is $20 per unit, a majority (57%) of residents say this is the right amount, while 23 percent say it is too high and 9 percent say it is too low.
* A look into the future: Most see shortage of educated workers — Page 21
Two in three residents (67%) think that in 20 years the economy will need more college-educated workers than the state can produce.

About the Survey

This is the second PPIC Statewide Survey to focus on higher education. It is part of a series of surveys on education, environment and population issues funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. This survey seeks to inform policymakers, encourage discussion, and raise public awareness about issues affecting higher education. This is the 92nd PPIC Statewide Survey in a series that has generated a database that includes the responses of more than 196,000 Californians. Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,503 California adult residents interviewed in English, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), Vietnamese, and Korean. They were reached by landline or cell phone throughout the state. Interviews were conducted from October 20 to November 3, 2008. The sampling error for the total sample is ± 2% and larger for subgroups. For more information on methodology, see page 25.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

PPIC is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major economic, social, and political issues. The institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office.

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