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Spring 2003
The Challenge
Going After the Best
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The Price of Excellence
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Spring 2003
Going After the Best
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Expecting faculty and administrators to be more entrepreneurial is not just realistic but imperative, considering that academic costs are going up much faster than state funding to support them. Start-up packages for scientists are a good example. “The cost of getting a young scientist up and going is in the six-digits, often seven-digits,” says Geoffrey Garrett, vice provost for International Studies and Overseas Programs, who heads the task-force action group on generating new resources and making the best use of existing ones. “Funding for this can come from the state, but it is a flat figure in terms of the number of students taught. Academic costs have skyrocketed over the past decade or 15 years, and the major reason for that is that technology has dramatically improved what we can do in the classroom,” says Garrett. “High-level education no longer resides in the ‘chalk and talk’ model of research and instruction, which has fallen by the wayside even in the social sciences and humanities.”

A possible solution, says Garrett, might lie in exploring two broad areas. “The first is that while always being mindful of UCLA’s mission as a state university, we should be thinking of more opportunities for charging the market price for the world-class education we provide.” There’s little doubt that the University of California’s current fees are a bargain, but raising them is a difficult political issue for many legislators who believe that higher fees mean diminished access for underprivileged students. That need not happen, says Garrett, because a campus like UCLA can redistribute much of its resources any way it likes. For example, he points out, Harvard University takes a good portion of its relatively high tuition fees and redistributes it as aid among students who are financially disadvantaged.

Garrett’s second point is that even though UCLA does exceptionally well raising research funds, having tripled the amount of research money it has received over the past two decades, it might refocus its efforts “more on core academic activities, the most important of which is support of faculty and graduate students.” Investment in human capital, says Garrett, is where the campus has the largest comparative disadvantage. Indeed, it’s a tall order for UCLA to match the kind of money that elite, private universities spend on their faculty and students. “The financial packages we provide for Ph.D. students in particular are just not competitive,” says Garrett, “and the issue of compensation for faculty goes a lot further than just salaries.” Reason: West Los Angeles, where UCLA is located, is a much sought-after place to live but “making it attractive for faculty to live here while at the same time providing appropriate child care and education for their children is very expensive.”

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