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Commission makes final recommendations for UC's future

| UC Commission on the Future has adopted a draft of its final report, offering 18 recommendations to help the university preserve access and quality while addressing the fiscal challenges of reduced state funding.
The commission received recommendations formed over the past year by five working groups of the commission, which assessed the size and shape of the UC system, its education and curriculum, access and affordability, and funding and research strategies.
Among the recommendations are suggestions for:
  •   • Expediting systemwide administrative reforms already underway that could save $500 million annually.
  •   • Adopting strategies to enable some students to earn a bachelor's degree in less than four years.
  •   Developing ways to streamline the pathway for transfer students.
  •   Continuing to explore expanded use of online instruction.
  •   Increasing the enrollment and capping the number of nonresident undergraduate students.
The commission voted unanimously for these measures at its meeting Oct. 11 at UC San Francisco. The commission's final report is expected by the end of the year.
"I think we made some real progress and identified areas where we can move forward," said UC Board of Regents Chairman Russell Gould.
"These ideas are not the ultimate solutions, but move us forward and provide the framework for the ongoing focus of UC leadership," according to the draft report.
For example, encouraging a shorter time to a degree would enable UC to educate students more efficiently. So the commission is recommending that UC explore curriculum changes and practices that can enable students to graduate in four years. In addition, the recommendation calls for implementing a formal program for a three-year degree.
Increasing the number of students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in four years or less would free up resources for more students. If 5-10 percent of students graduated one quarter or semester sooner, it would create an additional 2,000 to 4,000 undergraduate slots per year, according to UC estimates.
Another way to improve time-to-degree and free up resources for more students would be to streamline the pathway for transfer students and minimize the number of excess classes students take. Efforts to develop more common systemwide lower-division requirements and reduce other barriers to transferring have been under way.
The commission's recommendation calls for expanding these efforts. It also calls on the Academic Senate to submit a plan and timeline for developing more consistent systemwide lower-division requirements in high-demand majors by Jan. 31, 2011.
Online education also holds the potential to reduce costs, and the commission endorses a pilot project being coordinated by the UC Office of the President to assess the development of expanded online instruction.
Increasing nonresident enrollment would broaden the geographic diversity of campuses and enhance the student experience while generating additional money that could sustain educational offerings for all students, according to the commission's recommendation.
The recommendation caps the proportion of nonresident undergraduates systemwide at 10 percent and directs the UC president to report annually to the Board of Regents on the number of nonresident students.
Other recommendations in the draft report include:
  • Working, in conjunction with other major research institutions, to increase efforts to recover more of the operational, or indirect, costs that many research grants do not fully cover with the goal of capturing an additional $300 million annually.
  • Facilitating multi-campus research and doctoral/post-doctoral training, and improving policies, processes, technology and facilities in this area.
  • Increasing the proportion of graduate students from 22 percent of total enrollments to 26 percent by 2020-21 as a way to adequately support UC's research and instructional missions.
  • Improving transparency by renaming the student education fee and professional degree fees as tuition to be consistent with the understanding of those terms by the public and federal government.
  • Exploring the expansion of self-supporting degree programs to expand access and generate up to $250 million a year in additional revenue.
  • Developing ways to expand private donations and increase the amount of gifts that can be used for unrestricted uses, such as to support academic and research operations. Currently, 95 percent of the $1.3 billion raised in endowments in 2008-09 is restricted for specific programs or objectives; only $25 million is unrestricted, according to the recommendation.
The draft also included a set of "contingency recommendations" for increasing revenue and cutting costs that could be enacted should fiscal conditions worsen.
These measures include increasing tuition, increasing nonresident enrollment and charging differential tuition by campus while cutting costs through initiatives such as limiting student enrollment, downsizing the faculty and staff, and halting new capital and building projects.
The full text of the draft is available online.
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