UC Has a Long Way to Go to Build Back Trust of Students, Taxpayers, Lawmakers

UC Has a Long Way to Go to Build Back Trust of Students, Taxpayers, Lawmakers

A recently-released state audit faulting the University of California president’s office for mishandling the switch to a new payroll system – which was supposed to save money but will now cost nearly $1 billion – is the latest self-inflicted wound for the beleaguered system.

Earlier this summer, UC announced that it would admit 1.7 percent fewer freshmen from California for the fall 2017 term.

UC also continues to prioritize admitting international students – who pay much-higher tuition and fees – over Californians. UC Davis announced that its 2017 acceptance rate for international students was 60.4 percent, compared with 35.9 percent for California students. The school’s director of admissions told the Sacramento Bee that decisions were “made in consultation with our leadership.” The nonpartisan State Auditor’s office found in a 2016 audit that UC relaxed admissions standards to let in more out-of-state students – and bring in more cash.

To be fair, the University is progressing in its commitment to admit 10,000 additional California students by 2018-19. But they only acted under the threat of legislative action to impose a 10 percent cap on nonresident enrollment.

Imagine how many more California students could have been admitted had UC President Janet Napolitano not reportedly been hoarding $175 million in secret funds, according to a recent state audit.

Despite the ongoing scandals, change is coming slowly at UC. E-mails revealed that Napolitano directed campuses to divulge to her their confidential answers to the state auditor’s questions. And despite hoarding funds, UC voted to increase tuition by 2.5 percent in 2017-18.

To restore the public’s trust, there must be increased accountability to taxpayers over UC spending.

To really get to the bottom of what happened, Assembly Higher Education Committee Vice Chair Catharine Baker and Assembly Republicans have called for the Legislature to subpoena budget documents from Napolitano’s office. Baker has also called for a freeze of the 2017 tuition hike, and a freeze on raises at UC campuses.

The Legislature also took appropriate steps in the recently-enacted 2017-18 budget to increase oversight over UC spending, and withhold $50 million unless UC implements changes in response to the state auditor’s findings.

In response, UC is taking steps to implement the Auditor’s findings and the UC Regents are conducting their own fact-finding review. Students and taxpayers will be watching their actions closely and are hopeful for positive changes that will restore confidence in the crown jewel of the state’s higher education system.

Tim Anaya is Communications Director for the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.