Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getting To The Truth... eventually

Remember when we were being told - by Cal PR people and a reporter for DailyCal-that Birgeneau was attending a 'cyber security forum' during the demos last week? Well, it turns out-he was there for this : Berkeley Reveals Plan for Academic Center in China
looks like Engineering, then- expanding to Law, B-School and I-School
There also is this great piece:Five Theses on Privatization and the UC Struggle
The following speech by Nathan Brown was delivered at the UC system-wide strike rally held at UC Davis on November 15:

a favorite is :
"THESIS ONE: Tuition increases are the problem, not the solution.

In 2005 tuition was $6,312. Tuition is currently $13,218. What the Regents were supposed to be considering this week — before their meeting was cancelled due to student protest — was UC President Yudof’s plan to increase tuition by a further 81% over the next four years. On that plan, tuition would be over $23,000 by 2015-2016. If that plan goes forward, in ten years tuition would have risen from around $6,000 to around $23,000.

What happened?

The administration tells us that tuition increases are necessary because of cuts to state funding. According to this argument, cuts to state funding are the problem, and tuition increases are the solution. We have heard this argument from the administration and from others many times.

To argue against this administrative logic, I’m going to rely on the work of my colleague Bob Meister, a professor at UC Santa Cruz and the President of the UC Council of Faculty Associations. Professor Meister has written a series of important open letters to UC students, explaining why tuition increases are in fact the problem, not the solution to the budget crisis. What Meister explains is that the privatization of the university—the increasing reliance on tuition payments (your money) rather than state funding—is not a defensive measure on the part of the UC administration to make up for state cuts. Rather, it is an aggressive strategy of revenue growth: a way for the university to increase its revenue more than it would be able to through state funding.

This is the basic argument: privatization, through increased enrollments and constantly increasing tuition, is first and foremost an administrative strategy to bring in more revenue. It is not just a way to keep the university going during a time of state defunding. What is crucial to this argument is the way that different sources of funding can be used.

State funds are restricted funds. This means that a certain portion of those funds has to be used to fund the instructional budget of the university. The more money there is in the instructional budget, the more money is invested in student instruction, in the quality of your education. But private funds, tuition payments, are unrestricted funds. This means there are no restrictions on whether those funds are spent on student instruction, on administrative pay, or anything else.

What Professor Meister uncovered through his research into the restructuring of UC funding is that student tuition (your money) is being pledged as collateral to guarantee the university’s credit rating. What this allows the university to do is borrow money for lucrative investments, like building contracts or “capital projects” as they are called. These have no relation to the instructional quality of the institution. And the strong credit rating of the university is based on its pledge to continue raising tuition indefinitely.

Restricted state funds cannot be used for such purposes. Their use is restricted in such a way as to guarantee funding for the instructional budget. This restriction is a problem for any university administration whose main priority is not to sustain its instructional budget, but rather to increase its revenues and secure its credit rating for investment projects with private contractors.

So for an administration that wants to increase UC revenues and to invest in capital projects (rather than maintaining the quality of instruction) it is not cuts to public funding that are the problem; it is public funding itself that is the problem, because public funding is restricted.

What is happening as tuition increases is that money is being shifted out of instructional budgets and into private credit markets, as collateral for loans used for capital projects. Because of this, and because of increased enrollment, as university revenue increases the amount of money spent on instruction, per student, decreases. Meanwhile, students go deeper and deeper into debt to pay for their education. Using tuition payments as collateral, the university secures loans for capital projects. In order to pay their tuition, students borrow money in the form of student loans. The UC system thus makes a crucial wager: that students will be willing to borrow more and more money to pay higher and higher tuition.

Why would students do so? Because, the argument goes, a university education is an investment in your future—because it will “pay off” down the line. This logic entails an implicit social threat: if you do not take on massive debt to pay for a university degree, you will “fall behind”—you will be at a disadvantage on the job market, and you will ultimately make less money. The fear of “falling behind,” in the future, results in a willingness to pay more in the present, which is essentially a willingness to borrow more, to go further into debt in order to make more money later.

But is it actually true that a university degree continues to give students a substantial advantage on the job market? It is now the case that 50% of university students, after graduating, take jobs that do not require a university degree. It used to be the case that there was a substantial income gap between the top 20% of earners, who had university degrees, and the bottom 80% of earners, who did not. But since 1998, nearly all income growth has occurred in the top 1% of the population, while income has been stagnant for the bottom 99%. This is what it means to be “part of the 99%”: the wealth of a very small segment of the population increases, and you’re not in it.

What this means is that the advantage of a university degree is far less substantial than it used to be, though you pay far more for that degree. The harsh reality is that whether or not you have a university degree, you will probably still “fall behind.” We all fall behind together. The consequence is that students have recently become less willing to take out more and more debt to pay tuition. It is no longer at all clear that the logic of privatization will work, that it is sustainable. And what this means is that the very logic upon which the growth of the university is now based, the logic of privatization, is in crisis, or it will be. Student loan debt is a financial “bubble,” like the housing bubble, and it cannot continue to grow indefinitely.

To return to my thesis: what this means for our university—not just for students, but especially for students—is that increasing tuition is the problem, not the solution.

What we have to fight, then, is the logic of privatization. And that means fighting the upper administration of the UC system, which has enthusiastically taken up this logic, not as a defensive measure, but as an aggressive program to increase revenue while decreasing spending on instruction."

the only thing to add to this would be to footnote the Wall St. resumes of those who work at UCOP and on the Board of Regents to further support this thesis...and be sure to also read Thesis 3 esp. if you were on the bus to Sacto this week...
Remaking the University has great links to coverage.

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