- University of California President Janet Napolitano is considering sweeping changes and budget cuts to the office of president that would produce up to $400 million in savings, following vocal criticism from California Governor Jerry Brown, who has pushed her to cut university costs.
- The Huron Consulting Group’s assessment, commissioned by Napolitano, found that the president’s office finances were in line with university counterparts of similar scope, according to the the Los Angeles Times. System-wide finances were also appropriate. Consultants still proposed cost savings that would eliminate dozens of positions and reduce the office’s $883 million budget by about 50%. Proposed cuts could impact post-doctoral fellowships, chancellor expenses, some vacant positions, as well as the UC-Mexico research program.
- Napolitano says that any changes would be implemented over time and would be completed in a collaborative and transparent fashion. For some, the considerations sparked concerns about political meddling, while others saw the development as a positive step toward a more cost-efficient institution.
Criticism over her handling of a state audit and proposed tuition hikes have stifled Janet Napolitano as she rolls into her fifth year at the helm of the UC System. More concerning is that Napolitano and California Governor Jerry Brown do not appear to be on the same page regarding the institution’s path forward.
Brown has consistently demanded the UC System hold down costs and has invested millions of dollars into a new statewide online community college. Meanwhile, Napolitano has publicly downplayed online education and, with UC regents, proposed tuition hikes despite the Governor’s opposition. In 2015, the two agreed to 4% percent increase in state funding in exchange for a resident tuition freeze. But following that agreement, Napolitano was reprimanded for allowing aides to interfere in a state audit. And the most recent Governor's budget only proposed a 3% funding increase for the system.
Perhaps Napolitano’s heeding to pressure to streamline operations and cut costs are a sign of things to come. She and other university leaders will need to work more closely to form better relations with state leaders who hold the purse strings, especially in places where there's political disagreement. Reacting to mounting perceptions of university bloat and waste, states are looking to exert more control over public colleges’ expenses. Cutting costs successfully can show state leaders that universities are making an effort to reduce cost. It can also be a springboard to more positive conversations with state leaders who must be convinced that universities are doing all they can to cut costs.