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UCLA faculty to vote on ending state funding of MBA program

The Anderson School of Management's flagship program would rely on tuition and donations instead under the controversial plan.

June 07, 2012|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • The UCLA campus.
The UCLA campus. (Los Angeles Times )

UCLA faculty leaders are scheduled to decide Thursday whether the Anderson School of Management should end all reliance on state funding for its flagship master's degree program and instead rely on tuition and donations.

Supporters of the much-debated proposal for the full-time MBA program say it is a necessary reaction to declining state revenues. They contend that it will give administrators more flexibility, encourage more private donations and redirect about $8 million a year mostly in state funds to other campus divisions that are less able to gain financial independence.

Critics, however, allege that it is a dangerous move toward making UCLA operate more like a private college.

"There are strongly held feelings on both sides," said Andrew Leuchter, a psychiatry professor who is chairman of the UCLA faculty Senate. He said he could not predict the outcome of the closed-door vote by the Senate's140-member Legislative Assembly.

In March, a UCLA faculty panel that controls graduate education voted against the proposal and some Anderson faculty then appealed the matter to the Assembly. If that governing body votes against it, the plan is likely to die, officials said. If the UCLA faculty supports it, the plan will need approval by the UC systemwide faculty Senate and UC President Mark G. Yudof.

The controversial proposal has narrowed in scope since it was unveiled in fall 2010. Originally, the entire Anderson graduate school would have stopped taking any state funds and its administrators would have gained significant freedom in setting tuition and salaries. The current plan involves just the full-time master's program, which enrolls about 720 students. Advocates say Anderson still would abide by all UC governance and rules.

About 40 programs in the UC system, including some at Anderson, already are self-supporting, although those tend to be for nontraditional or part-time students, such as weekend executive MBA programs, officials said.

If UCLA's full-time master's of business administration joins that list, it would be the biggest such step by a mainstream UC academic program, they added. Prestigious business schools at some public universities around the country, including the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, have taken similar steps.

Steven Lippman, an Anderson professor, said financial self-sufficiency for the MBA program would help the school compete for students and faculty and move more quickly to possibly establish more international programs and online courses. He said it may allow tuition, now $45,385 a year for California residents and $52,580 for out-of-staters, to avoid some future increases that state budget problems could trigger elsewhere. But Lippman insisted that Anderson will remain "a public institution with a public mission."

Opponents contend that such plans threaten campus unity and would hurt departments without the affluent donors that business schools have. UCLA English professor Joseph Nagy, who is chairman of the Graduate Council that rejected the proposal, wrote in a formal statement that the Anderson idea "compromises the virtues that we expound of a public education and our commitment as UCLA faculty to the citizens of the State of California and beyond."

The UC system lost $650 million in state funding this year, resulting in tuition hikes, and Gov. Jerry Brown has warned that UC could lose $250 million more if voters do not approve his proposed tax increases in November.

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