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Could the University of California Go Partially Private?


In the midst of financial belt-tightening, public university presidents are letting their minds wander onto seemingly crazy notions: Yesterday we mentioned that the University of Missouri was harmlessly mulling over three-year, no-frills degrees. Meanwhile, the University of California system deigned to mention the idea of "partial privatization."According to the LA Times, the chances of UC going in that direction are pretty unrealistic. That isn't stopping school officials from invoking the idea, however, at least as a way of pointing out just how dire that state of the system's finances are. This week, UC President Mark Yudof mentioned it in remarks made Monday-but as an example of what not to do.Partial privatization is not a new idea. The University of Michigan instituted it in the 1970s-which, among other things, raised decreased the parity between its in-state and out-of-state tuition rates (though the gap is still huge) and allowed for more out-of-state attendees.While that's probably a good thing, given the full-scale collapse of the Michigan economy, it's unlikely to work in California. First off, in-state students are clamoring to be part of state's higher education system. Out-of-state attendees in Michigan make up 35 percent of its system, whereas in California, that number stands at fewer than 8 percent. (That's due in part to the fact that people are fleeing Michigan, while California is gaining residents.)The Times article mentions that experts are concerned whether UC schools would be able to attract out-of-state students at increased tuition costs. As Andrew Price noted on this very blog, there are UC schools and programs that are world class, from Berkeley to UCLA to UCSF to the farming and wine-related studies at UC Davis. Leveraging the interest in these programs may actually be a way of helping to add more revenue to the system.That's not my idea (or Andrew's), but that of former UC Regent Ward Connerly, who suggests that prestigious campuses, such as Berkeley and UCLA be allowed to charge so-called "market rates."It seems like an intriguing solution-but also one that sucks some of the meaning out of the UC being a public school. That said, did that ship sail with it striking down affirmative action in 1997 and creating campuses that looked dissimilar to the state as a whole (demographically speaking). Also, the 32 percent tuition hike seems like perhaps an unintentional step in that direction, doesn't it?Photo by Flickr user Steve Rhodes
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