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Memories of Powell
What Price Glory?

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What Price Glory?
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The annual budget for the University of California's nine campuses totals $11.1 billion and is enormously complicated. The state now provides less than 20 percent of the funding; the bulk comes from the federal government, through individual and corporate donations, from endowments and student fees. (UC also operates three national laboratories, which are entirely funded by the federal government to the tune of $2.3 billion a year -- only slightly less than the cost of instruction at all the campuses.)

Still, the University of California is less expensive, if only by a bit, than most other top-tier public schools including the University of Michigan ($6,074 annually), the University of Virginia ($4,648) and the State University of New York ($4,656). Moreover, the price tag on a UC education is substantially lower than that of private universities. The estimated annual cost of an education at Stanford University, for example, is $29,000 a year for tuition, books and living expenses.

By these standards, an education at a UC campus remains a bargain. "I think our fees are quite reasonable," says former UC President Clark Kerr, widely viewed as the author of California's higher education master plan. "Those who benefit so much themselves" -- meaning college graduates who will earn an average of 80 percent more over their lifetime than those without degrees -- "should be able to pay it." Nevertheless, there are many inside UC circles who believe that the problem with fees is not so much that they are the highest in the university's history, but that they shot up so drastically in such a short period -- TK percent in the 25 years since my own college days.

Indeed, UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young favors high fees for the windfall they provide to fund student aid. Currently the UC system's fee structure returns to students fully one-third of all fees collected in the form of financial assistance. In 1993-1994, the last academic year for which statistics are available, the university awarded an average of $7,105 to each of the TK students who qualified for aid.

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