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State auditor calls for transparency in UC funding

A survey finds that four campuses with high numbers of minority students receive less per-capita funding than some other schools. It's also critical of UCLA for 'wrongfully' using $5 million in student activities fees for a student center.

July 29, 2011|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • The state auditor criticized UCLA for using $5 million from the student activities fund to build a student center on campus.
The state auditor criticized UCLA for using $5 million from the student… (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles…)

The state auditor Thursday called on the University of California to be more transparent about how it distributes money among its campuses and asked why four campuses with high proportions of black, Latino and Native American students receive lower per-capita funding than some other UC schools.

The auditor's report also criticized UCLA for "wrongfully" using $5 million from a student activities fund to construct a student center and for plans, since abandoned, to tap the fund further to renovate the Pauley Pavilion basketball arena. UCLA contends that it had the right to use the student fee money but dropped plans to spend any on the Pauley project.

The audit was requested last year by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a frequent critic of the pay and perks of UC executives. But the report, which reviewed five years of UC spending through fiscal 2009-10, did not contain major revelations about administrators' compensation, a point noted with satisfaction by university officials.

UC President Mark G. Yudof, in a formal written response, urged legislators in the future "to provide more evidence of malfeasance than innuendo" in seeking such a probe.

Yee said Thursday that UC continues to resist oversight and cited the audit's complaint that the university's financial statements lump together about $1 billion a year in spending without enough specifics.

"It is clear that there remain many significant problems with the way UC operates," Yee said in a statement.

The Bureau of State Audits also asked UC to explain disparities in per-student funding among its nine undergraduate campuses. UCLA received the highest amount for each undergraduate, $19,529 in 2009-10, and UC Santa Barbara had the lowest, $12,309 for the same period. UC San Francisco, a health and medical school for graduate students, received $55,186 per student, the audit found. UC officials attributed the range to many factors, including the varying sizes and types of programs and whether costly medical education is offered.

The report found no evidence that UC considered the racial and ethnic makeup of each campus' student population in its budgeting, but asked why four UC schools — Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, each with a higher-than-average percentage of Latino, black and Native American students — had received less per-student funding than some other campuses.

"This disparity highlights the importance of being able to quantify and explain the differences," the report stated.

Yudof, who is recuperating from gallbladder surgery, strongly disputed any suggestion that race or ethnicity played a role.

"There is absolutely no basis — statistically, historically, or ethically — for drawing such a connection," he wrote in his response.

He agreed, however, that funding differences should be analyzed and said that UC is trying to make its policies more public.

The audit also examined UCLA's controversial decision to dip into fees students had imposed on themselves in 2000 to improve student recreation facilities. Student leaders were upset by the university's plan, which was detailed in a Times article last year. The 2000 referendum listed several projects, but the audit found that officials inappropriately spent $5.2 million on a student center not named in the measure and planned to spend $15 million on Pauley, which was also not mentioned.

UCLA last year said reduced construction costs meant that it was no longer necessary to use those fees on Pauley but also said the plan broke no rules because the expenditure was approved by the UC regents, who have final say.

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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