SF State leads California public university system with affordable education, efficient administration

California’s state plan for public education promises college students affordable higher education, but a steady decrease in state funding for the past 50 years threatens that promise.

In fact, 81 percent of  Californians say that California’s public university regents and trustees are not doing enough to control rising tuition costs, according to a Reason-Rupe/Princeton poll.

Despite a tuition raise of 77 percent over the past five years, SF State has managed to cut its administrative costs by more than 25 percent, according to the report published by ACTA (see page 29). This ranks the University close to the top of all CSUs in terms of academic and financial governance, according to the report.

“The main issue that this study has with the CSU and UC systems is not the lack of funding,” Michael Polliakoff, vice president of the policy at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, said. “But rather the way that the money is being spent.”

The ACTA report, “Best Laid Plans: The Unfulfilled Promise of Public Higher Education in California,” detailed how CSUs and UC systems rank in terms of intellectual diversity, core education, governance and finance.

The report is critical of the administrator to student ratio, low four-year graduation rates and “unnecessary” building projects. Even the national culture of education needs to change, according to Polliakoff.

The report from ACTA also calls for more virtual classrooms and fewer real ones, something which the CSU system is pushing for. Virtual classrooms can cut costs, leverage resources at several different campuses and increase enrollment, according to Polliakoff.

University President Leslie E. Wong believes that online classes can be appropriate if used within the right context.

“Students want to be around other students, but there is room for growth of hybrid courses,” Wong said.

Wong cited the Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization started by Bollywood actor Imran Khan, which hosts thousands of educational videos online.

“I’ve been following Khan Academy’s work and I’m pushing for him (Imran Khan) to come to campus,” Wong said. “The data he is providing is stunning. There is a convenience that hybrid courses offer and good teaching face to face can translate into good teaching online.”

Despite the detailed critique of CSU governance coming from ACTA, the CSU system is moving forward with daily operations, according to CSU board spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp.

“The report has zero impact on what we are doing,” Uhlenkamp said.

He said that criticism focused on administrative spending in the report is designed to mislead readers.

“If you look at the actual dollar figures, the total budget is in the neighborhood of $4 billion. Compensation for all 22 presidents is less than $10 million dollars combined,” Uhlenkamp said.

The state of California and tuition fees provide funding toward the general funds for each campus, Uhlenkamp explained.

“When building a facility on campus, there is a systemwide revenue bond program that sells bonds to generate the revenue for a revenue generating facility. This is not part of the general fund,” Uhlenkamp said in response to ACTA’s report claim that CSU obsession with constructing new buildings was costly.“It’s a very unique time for this (report) to come out with the current budget. Every campus is looking to save every single dime and penny it can.”

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SF State leads California public university system with affordable education, efficient administration