Texas’ universities should capitalize on California’s budget shortfall
(Exerpt taken from the Austin American-Statesman, opinion editorial by Isaac Barchas – Director of the Austin Technology Incubator)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The emergency budget deal that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed two weeks ago for California might bring to an end that state’s 50-year run as the home of the nation’s strongest public universities.
The deal cut $2.8 billion from California’s higher education budget. That’s more — a lot more — than the entire budget of the University of Texas at Austin. Combined with other economic factors, the result is an $813 million (or 20 percent) budget shortfall for the flagship University of California System.
This is a tragedy for California. Especially if Texas seizes the remarkable opportunity it presents.
Why? Because this crisis will hollow out the University of California’s most important asset: its world-class talent.
California now can’t compete in the global market for the best faculty. The University of California at Berkeley — perhaps the greatest public university in the world — usually hires 100 faculty members each year. This year, it hopes to hire 10. The University of California at San Diego — a bioscience powerhouse — will hire no new faculty. The University of California at San Francisco — a top-five medical school — will reduce its faculty by almost 15 percent.
Moreover, cost-reduction measures aimed at faculty and staff (such as pay cuts and furloughs) are expected to generate $184 million in savings. But, according to the chancellor at Berkeley, this hurts their competitiveness by about $15,000 per faculty member. This environment — dwindling academic staffing and therefore capability and reputation, resource constraints, pay cuts — will encourage the best faculty, especially the best young faculty, to leave the state.
None of this would be fatal if it were just a response to a cyclical downturn. Universities, including the University of Texas, go through tough patches on a regular basis. They tighten their belts and then recover as the cycle improves. But California’s financial crisis isn’t cyclical. It’s structural — the connection between California’s politics and California’s economy is broken.
So where’s the opportunity for Texas?
Read more here.