Editorial: Don’t buy into the UC hype

The Universtiy of California system has come a long way since opening in 1868. Since then, the UC system has grown and its schools have become competitive with the well-established, prestigious, Ivy League universities of the East coast, with nine campuses within the system placing in the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Students in California are lucky to have one of the best public university systems in the world, and the UC system has played a huge part in bringing prestigious higher education to the state, while also making education from distinguished schools a reality for students who are unable to afford schools like Stanford or Harvard.

Professors in the UC system are some of the best in their fields, and it makes sense that the UC wants to be able to offer them a salary that can compete with offers from Ivy League schools. The system also needs its fair share of funding for the huge amounts of research it conducts. For that reason, it’s logical that UC tuition is higher than California State University (CSU) or California Community College (CCC) tuition.

However, the UC system is still a public university system, and continuing to increase enrollment and raise tuition for its students is unreasonable. The beauty of public higher education in California is its accessibility. The major factor that differentiates the UC system from its lofty Ivy League counterparts is that it is accessible to students based on their academic performance, not based on their income.

In recent years, the UC system has strayed from its original path. The prospect of tuition hikes, despite a 2011 tuition freeze, has met some well-deserved outcry from students, faculty and government officials, for good reason. To remedy budget issues at the expense of students is clearly a mis-step for any public university.

According to data from 2013-2014 on the UC website, the system as a whole has 238,700 students and 135,900 staff members, not including academic staff and faculty. For every two students, there is one staff member. With just 52,400 academic faculty, it seems unlikely that most of the system’s money is going to pay for faculty salaries or campus improvements.

Assembly Bill 837 was recently introduced, which proposes a salary cap for UC executives at $500,000. According to the UC salary database, about 300 employees earned more than that in 2012. Some of that money is provided federally and through the state, but that still means that students are paying more money than they can usually afford and going into debt to help pay a massive salary that the vast majority of UC graduates will never come close to making.

It remains to be seen whether the UC system will remain accessible and affordable to all students. Given recent events, however, students should not buy into the hype surrounding UC schools. Considering the cost of higher education in general and the growing recognition of the nationwide issue of student debt, you might be better off proving your intelligence by saving money and attending a less prestigious and more affordable school that gives more consideration to its students.