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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Interview with the Chancellor
Interview by Raymond Hardie

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox responds to questions about negotiating heavy budget cuts and how UCSD can remain affordable to all.

We hope that there will be an increasing number of graduates who will give back. We already see a pattern of increasing philanthropy at UC San Diego. And it is absolutely necessary. 

EDITOR: The University of California has experienced many difficult budgetary years during its history. How does this present financial crisis differ from previous ones?
CHANCELLOR: Our current problem differs in magnitude and in scope from earlier times. The budget cuts proposed this year are so large that we need to make substantive changes, such as restructuring debt and academic units.

EDITOR: Do you think we are witnessing a structural change in the relationship between public universities and society as a whole?
CHANCELLOR: I think so. As we consider the ways to address the increasing shortfalls in our budgets, we have to do something different than what we have done in the past. That involves shrinking programs, restructuring, creating public-private partnerships, and increasing philanthropy. And although I believe that interactions with the private sector, through various research partnerships, are essential, I do not believe they are sufficient to address this shortfall from the state. It is a challenge.

EDITOR: What do you think will be affected most as the trend of decreasing public funding continues?
CHANCELLOR: The mission of public research institutions comprises teaching, research and services as a three-legged stool. Our first mandate is excellence. If we are to succeed, we have to maintain an excellent academic profile that is attractive to the very best students, faculty and staff in the world. The other two legs of that stool address access and affordability. As a public institution, we are very conscious of access and affordability, but the administration must always put excellence first because, without it, there is no world-class teaching and research.

EDITOR: So you think there will be difficulty of access in the future?
CHANCELLOR: We see it already. With increasing tuition and fees, students are finding it difficult to enroll at the University of California. Many are choosing to go to a community college first for financial reasons. We have to remember that we are pledged to achieve social mobility, and that demands that we reach out to those who are worthy of attendance by virtue of their talent rather than their family income. That is, we must find means by which all highly gifted students can be financially supported.

We have to be able to say that if you are admitted to UC San Diego, that we will work out a financial package that will allow you to come. I feel comfortable now saying that; whether I am going to be comfortable in five years is frankly doubtful, unless something changes.

EDITOR: A recent study from the UC Office of the President says that, by 2005, the state of California will confront a shortage of a million college-educated workers. How do you see our economic health as a state and as a country being affected if publicly supported education budgets continue to shrink?
CHANCELLOR: That is already happening and is synonymous with “access.”  It begins in the high schools where we lose approximately one-third of our students through low graduation rates.  We lose another third because they are not academically qualified for the UC system. That results in a small number of students who are UC eligible. We must have high standards all the way through K-12, and that is our goal at the Preuss School. What all of that means is that we have to prepare our students better if they are to have a future. We have to make that investment at an early stage in their academic lives and continue on to advanced degrees.

EDITOR: To play the devil’s advocate, why should the taxpayer continue to shoulder the burden of higher education when a large percentage of UC alumni do not value that education enough to give back?
CHANCELLOR: We hope that there will be an increasing number of graduates who will give back. We already see a pattern of increasing philanthropy at UC San Diego. And it is absolutely necessary.  Look at San Diego. It is obvious that there has been an almost complete transformation of the city’s economy through the biomedical and wireless communication industries. UC San Diego has been at the center of that transformation.  If the investment in higher education is not continued, there simply will not be new economically important industries. It is unthinkable if the U.S. is to be an economic leader.

Raymond Hardie is the editor of @UCSD Magazine.