We’ve been making the case for some time that while a long-term commitment to public education in California will require some vast structural changes, the immediate crisis of the UC stems at least as much, if not more, from misplaced priorities. Bob Samuels makes that side of the case very well, here, and he crunches the numbers to make his point:

(via Changing Universities)

UC faculty and students are still being manipulated by the administration to blame all of the university’s problems on state funding, but as I have previously shown, most of the UC’s budget issues are internal. While I have argued that we still need to fight to increase the state allocation for higher education, we have to pressure UC administrators to provide truthful information regarding the university’s finances. Moreover, the solution to our current inability to provide access, affordability, and quality higher education in the California is to increase enrollments and make sure that the enhanced revenue finds its way into the classroom. While many people will argue that we cannot afford to have more students, I will show below why we cannot afford not to have increased enrollments. To make this argument, I will refute several of the standard myths that the UC circulates about its own finances.

Myth 1. UC does not get enough money from the state and student fees to cover the total cost of instruction.

Fact #1: I have calculated that while the University of California receives $15,000 from the state for each student, and student fees and tuition brings in another $10,000 per student, it only costs about $3,000 to educate each student. This means that most of the money that students and the state pay goes to fund external research, administration, and extracurricular activities. Furthermore, the main reason why the cost for instruction is so low is that research universities rely on large classes and inexpensive non-tenured faculty and graduate students to teach most of their undergraduate courses.

To determine the basic educational cost at any university, you simply need to take the average salary of the people who teach the courses and then divide that salary by the average number of courses to get the per course cost. In the case of the University of California, the average salary for a professor teaching undergraduate courses is $100,000, and the average course load is 5, which means the per course cost is $20,000. However, half of the undergraduate courses in the UC system are taught by non-tenurable lecturers and grad students, and their average per course cost is $6,000. If we average these two costs together, the combined average cost per class is $13,000. The next thing to do is to determine the average class size, and the best way to do this is to look at the size of the classes that the average student takes in an average year. In the UC campuses using the quarter system, students average 8 large classes and 2 small classes per year, and the large classes average 200 students, and the small classes average 20 students. This means that the average per student cost for a large class is $65, and the average per student cost for a small class is $650. Now, we can add up the cost of the ten courses a student takes in a year, and we get $1,820 ($1,300 for 2 small classes + $520 for 8 large classes).

One thing that I have left out of this calculation is the cost for small sections taught by graduate students that often accompany large lecture classes. In the UC system, this additional cost adds another $1,000 to each undergraduate’s yearly bill, and if we now multiply the whole total by the cost of providing healthcare for all of the instructors (15%), our new total is $3,243. We are still a long way from the $25,000 that the UC claims it costs to educate each undergraduate student per year. More importantly, it is clear that if the UC increased enrollments, it would have more money for all of its other activities.

Read the rest of this article here.