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UC foresees problems

By David Scharfenberg
Saturday September 21, 2002


University of California officials cited faculty recruitment, staff salaries and housing as chief long-term concerns at the Board of Regents meeting this week. 

With enrollment at UC’s nine campuses expected to jump 40 percent from 1998 to 2010, in a surge dubbed “Tidal Wave II,” university officials are moving to hire as many as 550 new faculty a year this decade to keep up with the growth. 

But a number of obstacles, most of them financial, have university officials worried. UC is paying faculty 7.5 percent less than eight universities it references for comparative purposes, officials said, which makes it harder to attract faculty candidates. 

The average UC full professor is making $109,214 per year, according to university statistics. The salaries are measured against not only public schools like the University of Virginia and University of Illinois but private universities like Harvard, Yale and Stanford. 

“We compete, very much, with leading private institutions for faculty,” said UC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs C. Judson King. 

The salary shortfall is due, in part, to a decline in state funding in recent years. This year, the state Legislature gave UC only a 1.5 percent increase in funding for salaries. That figure falls well below the 4 percent target laid out in a partnership agreement between the university and the state dating back to the Wilson administration. 

With the short-term health of the state budget in doubt, UC officials are worried that they will not see the 4 percent increases anytime soon. Analysts predict a $10 billion state shortfall next year on the heels of this year’s $24 billion hole. 

But Vice President for Budget Larry Hershman held hope for a long-term economic recovery, which would boost state revenues and improve UC’s fortunes. 

“The fundamentals of the California economy are strong,” he said. “We will catch up again.”  

In the meantime, with hundreds of faculty hires in the pipeline, start-up costs are another concern. King said it costs the university an average of $200,000 to make lab modifications, provide new equipment and hire graduate students for new professors. 

Logistical concerns around the sheer number of searches to be conducted and physical space for new professors on campus are also at issue, King said. 

Officials from UC’s Housing Task Force said shelter, in the face of an expensive California housing market, is another long-term concern. Systemwide, UC is housing 26 percent of its students. UC Berkeley, at 20 percent, falls below the average, while UC Santa Cruz, at 42 percent, leads the pack. 

By the 2011-12 school year, UC hopes to house 38 percent of its students. The target at UC Berkeley is 29 percent. 

UC Berkeley has made progress this year on housing, opening a new 120-bed housing complex at the corner of College and Durant avenues and clearing the waiting list for housing for the first time in recent history. 

The university plans to have 1,100 new beds in place by the end of 2005. 

But some students say the university needs to do more. 

“There’s definitely still a need,” said Micki Weinberg, a UC Berkeley sophomore and candidate for Berkeley City Council. 

University officials, in a wide-ranging review of UC’s long-term health at the Board of Regents’ meeting, gave the institution high marks in a number of other areas. 

UC has exceeded goals for boosting undergraduate and graduate enrollment, for example, and has increased its share of federal research dollars in recent years, officials said.