UC-Berkeley and other ‘public Ivies’ in fiscal peril
Across the nation, a historic collapse in state funding for higher education threatens to diminish the stature of premier public universities and erode their mission as engines of upward social mobility.
At the University of Virginia, state support has dwindled in two decades from 26 percent of the operating budget to 7 percent. At the University of Michigan, it has declined from 48 percent to 17 percent.
Not even the nation’s finest public university is immune. The University of California at Berkeley — birthplace of the free-speech movement, home to nine living Nobel laureates — subsists now in perpetual austerity. Star faculty take mandatory furloughs. Classes grow perceptibly larger each year. Roofs leak; e-mail crashes. One employee mows the entire campus. Wastebaskets are emptied once a week. Some professors lack telephones.
Behind these indignities lie deeper problems. The state share of Berkeley’s operating budget has slipped since 1991 from 47 percent to 11 percent. Tuition has doubled in six years, and the university is admitting more students from out of state willing to pay a premium for a Berkeley degree. This year, for the first time, the university collected more money from students than from California.
“The issue that’s being addressed at Berkeley, fundamentally, is the future of the high-quality public university in America,” said Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, now a public policy professor at Berkeley.