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UC panel proposes three-year bachelor's degrees, other big changes

The university's Commission on the Future issues proposals for revamping revenue and education policies, including taking more out-of-state undergrads, who pay more, and offering some courses online.

March 24, 2010|By Larry Gordon

Reporting from San Francisco — The University of California on Tuesday began considering dramatic changes in the way it educates its students and raises revenue, including whether to offer three-year bachelor's degrees and enroll more out-of-state undergraduates.

UC's Commission on the Future heard its first set of proposals aimed at making the 10-campus system more efficient while preserving its academic strengths. Some ideas are sure to be controversial as they are discussed over the next few months, officials said.

"Some recommendations you may like a lot. Some you may think are terrible. But that's OK. They are important ideas to put forward," UC Regents Chairman Russell S. Gould said at the commission's meeting at UC San Francisco.

Proposals from the commission's five subcommittees include: encouraging some students to complete bachelor's degrees in three years through extra summer sessions and fewer requirements; doubling the number of out-of-state students, who now make up 5% of undergraduates and pay significantly higher fees; charging more for the most popular campuses, including UC Berkeley and UCLA; and expanding online course offerings.

The UC regents and faculty senate may approve some preliminary ideas this summer but others will take a year or more to study, Gould said. Legislative approval may be needed in some instances.

Gould established the commission last summer and appointed its 26 members, who include UC administrators, faculty, students, and business and labor leaders. He said UC must help itself out of the crisis caused by state funding cuts and not rely so heavily on fee increases and payroll reductions.

Among the most controversial ideas was a proposal to boost the number of out-of-state students as a way to garner more fee revenue. Although some public research universities in other states enroll more than 25% of their students from out of state, commission members said they worried about displacing too many Californians at UC. Art Pulaski, head of the California Labor Federation and a commission member, warned that reducing the percentage of in-state students could have "diminishing political returns."

The panel also debated several student fee proposals, including whether to hold fees stable for any entering classes' tenure at UC, and alternatively, whether to raise them by a steady, amount, ranging from 5% to 15% annually over five years. And several officials said UC should replace the term "fees" with "tuition," saying that "fees" is an outdated remnant of a 1960s policy not to charge tuition.

Some faculty leaders were dubious about proposals to replace some classroom instruction with online classes. One plan discussed Tuesday said UC should develop 40 basic online courses in a pilot program to help students graduate on time and cut costs. "I think the question is whether we are leaders or followers," said commission member Christopher Edley Jr., dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school and a strong advocate of Internet education.

Union leaders complained that the commission did not focus enough on trimming administrative bloat and high pay for UC executives.

About 50 people marched outside the meeting in protest of recent fee increases and layoffs, and their chants sometimes made it difficult to hear proceedings.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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