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After delay, UC releases report breaking down per-student expenditures

By Katherine Hafner and Rupan Bharanidaran

Feb. 18, 2015 8:46 p.m.

The University of California is spending about $5,000 less per student than it did two decades ago, according to an internal report conducted by the University and released to the state Legislature Tuesday.

The report showed that per-student expenditures has decreased from $22,390 in 1990-1991 to $16,890 in 2012-2013.

The Legislature mandated the University to submit the report by Oct. 1. After a one-month extension, the University provided its preliminary report on Oct. 31, but did not break down its spending by student level and discipline as the Legislature required under Assembly Bill 94.

The law, passed in 2013 , mandates that the UC detail its expenditures to the state, even though the UC has reported to the Legislature its average per-student expenditures in the past in its accountability report released annually since 2009. The University said it delayed its full report because it had to develop a new methodology to measure how much it spends on undergraduate and graduate students specifically.

According to the report, the University said because state funds, tuition and UC general funds are not allocated at the student level or by discipline, its system did not account for funding at those levels. The University said in the report that having the system provide data that fit the stipulation given in the bill was a challenge.

Critics, including UC professors, have faulted the University’s old methodology for failing to accurately represent the cost of education across different disciplines. But officials made it clear in the report that they prefer the old practice, saying it is hard to calculate specific costs for undergraduate education when, for instance, professors teach both undergraduate and graduate courses.

“The huge caveat of this report is we had to rely on proxies and estimations,” said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein. “It would be impossible to replicate (elsewhere), whereas the old methodology is much easier. This is a whole new way of looking at things.”

The report said that in 2012-2013, the UC spent $23,000 per undergraduate student in science, technology, engineering and math and $39,100 per graduate student. The report stated that the UC spends more on graduate students because graduate programs are often taught by more tenured faculty.

A preliminary version of the report sent to the California Legislature on Oct. 31 showed that students continue to pay more of the cost of their individual education, as the amount the University spends per student decreases while tuition and fees continue to rise.

The report also showed that the decrease in state funding for the UC has led to an increase in student contributions to the University’s core educational funds through higher tuition and fees. The proportion rose from roughly 12 percent of the UC’s expenditures in 1990-1991 to nearly 50 percent in 2012-2013, according to the report.

The UC included both “narrow” and “broad” definitions of its expenditures for educating students to demonstrate to the state Legislature the difficulties in determining the cost of an education.

The narrow definition includes actual classroom expenditures – instruction, academic support and student services – as requested under the new law. But the UC also calculated costs under a broader definition that includes financial aid and other aspects that officials say are very difficult to disaggregate from the total cost.

Officials said in the report that there are still a few aspects the UC was unable to calculate, including expenditures for graduate professional programs.

“We of course will comply with the law,” Klein said. “But it’s also our responsibility to say maybe this isn’t the best way to do things.”

The report concluded that the listed expenditure levels do not “adequately” fund the University’s needs, and shortfalls still exist in several categories.

Compiled by Katherine Hafner, Bruin senior staff, and Rupan Bharanidaran, Bruin contributor.

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Katherine Hafner
Bharanidaran was the News editor from 2017-2018. He was previously a news reporter for the campus politics beat, covering student government and the UCLA administration.
Bharanidaran was the News editor from 2017-2018. He was previously a news reporter for the campus politics beat, covering student government and the UCLA administration.
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