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Spring 2003
The Challenge
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Spring 2003
The Challenge
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The rise of democracy and economic opportunity has made higher education a priority for all citizens, not just the political and social elite. Today, nearly two-thirds of U.S. high school graduates enter college. As the role and mission of universities change, so, too, do public expectations with regard to the process and results of the academic enterprise. Universities must be accessible and affordable, and they must create knowledge that is applicable, with visible benefits to society.

The 21st century also is marked by a rapidly expanding universe of knowledge — both accompanied and driven by swiftly developing new technologies — that is changing the face of our world. In a knowledge-driven economy, the university makes increasingly important contributions to society; maintaining the capacity to make such contributions, however, has become increasingly costly.

Public universities like UCLA must also handle increasing competition from within academe itself. There is a significant and growing resource gap between UCLA and the best private universities, which have substantially more money available to spend on their students and faculty. While UCLA’s endowment is large in comparison to other public universities, it is not grand when compared to those of elite private universities (the market value of UCLA’s endowment at the end of Fiscal Year 2002 was $1.2 billion, compared with $17.5 billion for Harvard, for example). And while UCLA certainly faces short-term challenges in light of the state’s budget crisis, the magnitude of the differential between the privates and publics is so large that this resource gap would exist regardless of California’s financial condition. Furthermore, increasing numbers of private universities — universities that have not achieved the level of academic excellence of UCLA, but that have access to greater resources than do public schools — are scrambling to enter the upper tier of outstanding research universities.

Our strategy of growth and expansion has been altered to address this new reality. We must deploy our existing resources more efficiently, and we must continue to attract funds from non-state sources such as the federal government and private philanthropy. The strategy of making the very best use of our resources is clear: Focus on those areas in which a university must achieve excellence, and on those areas in which UCLA has a comparative advantage and can be a national leader. The university has already had much success with this strategy. For example, we have strengthened the foundation of our academic enterprise by investing more in the College of Letters and Science, by modifying and enhancing our libraries and by bolstering our information-technology infrastructure.

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