President Janet Napolitano
Remarks to the Board of Regents
November 13, 2013
UC President Janet Napolitano's remarks to the Board of Regents at its Nov. 13, 2013 meeting, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chair Varner.
As you know, I've been spending my first six weeks deeply immersed in the ways and wonders of the University of California.
Last week I was at UC Riverside. I visited professor Anand Ray's entomology lab. I'll spare you the details, but it ended with me whispering sweet nothings into the antennae of a mosquito.
It sounds comical at first. But Dr. Ray's research into the olfactory receptors of mosquitoes and fruit flies has the potential to protect people from malaria and our citrus crops from the devastating bacterial disease called citrus greening.
At Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, I put my hands on a Darfur stove. It's a UC invention, seemingly simple in design, but profound in its impact. It's a fuel-efficient stove that is significantly improving the lives of literally thousands of women in the Third World.
At UC Davis, I fell asleep in an actual living laboratory ... (Now, some of my college science professors might say, yes, that's the Janet we remember) ... but this was different.
This was in the Davis West Village complex. It's the largest planned zero net energy community in the country. On the ground floor, they're researching batteries, energy, water, all in the quest for sustainability. On the floors above, students, faculty and staff live and work side by side, in structures that make use of the green technologies being explored below.
And the beauty of it is this: What's being learned and lived in West Village will someday, if all goes according to plan, be scaled up and exported to all of California, the nation, the world.
At one corner of the West Village quad, I should add, sits the Sacramento City College Davis Center. It's the only community college outpost located on a UC campus. It was created in an effort to increase community college transfer rates into UC—a noble and necessary goal I will address in greater detail later in my remarks.
One idea behind the West Village project is that, by studying in close proximity to UC students, low-income and first-generation two-year-college students will be encouraged to believe that a UC education is within their reach.
Believing, after all, is a first requirement of achieving.
This was driven home to me again when I visited Oakland Technical High School. To my dismay, a show of hands revealed a widespread lack of awareness about the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, and other financial aid opportunities. One student said flat out he wouldn't even consider applying to UC because his family couldn't afford the tuition. In point of fact under the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan he would pay no tuition. Not one single dollar. Yet he had already self-selected out of the world-class education UC provides.
This, too, is something I intend to address in a few minutes.
I could go on with my travel notes, but let me make one final point. Perhaps the most important lesson I've learned to date is this:
Any suggestion this institution is collectively stuck in the past, or is wary of trying new pathways, or is content with simply clinging to the status quo—any such suggestion is as false as false can be. And while I intend to honor the past, I also intend to keep pushing us to the future.
In every campus visit—and there have been seven so far—and in every meeting in Oakland—and there have been too many to count—I have been struck by the palpable appetite for change, for exploring new pathways, for moving the University of California forward ... for finding better ways to serve students ... to advance research ... to enhance the academic excellence this enterprise demands and deserves.
Yes, there are traditions to uphold, fundamental traditions borne of values that must never be abandoned, even as we try new things. And, even in an era when the STEM disciplines are predominant, we must continue to invest in the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences, for these are the disciplines that help inform the values underlying the progress we are seeking.
But don't forget that this is an institution that has always evolved. It has always looked for new and better ways to pursue its public mission. It is the home court of creativity, and perhaps most importantly, the courage that creativity requires.
As you know, I have already allocated $15 million in one-time monies, derived from over-reserving in one of our mortgage loan programs, to assist our campuses with providing services for undocumented students, graduate student recruitment, and post-doc fellowships.
Today, I would like to announce four additional initiatives we should undertake. Many of these initiatives build on work that is already happening in some form or fashion. All are offered in the spirit of the constant pursuit for better pathways forward, for new mountains to climb.
First, I'm announcing that from this day forward, we are going to start exploring, in earnest, a new UC tuition policy. To give us time to do so, I'm proposing a tuition freeze for the 2014-15 academic year.
This is not a mere time-out, or a one-time holiday. The purpose is to allow the time needed to get it right. Tuition cuts right to the heart of accessibility and affordability-two of the university's guiding stars. We need to figure out, in the real world in which we live, how to bring clarity to, and reduce volatility in, the tuition-setting process. It's time for the university to collaboratively come up with a better way. Maybe this will lead to what we call cohort tuition, in which freshman class members can enter UC with the expectation that tuition will not dramatically increase during their four years as undergraduates. Or maybe our exploration will lead to some other model. I want tuition to be as low as possible, and I want it to be as predictable as possible.
Now, a reality check. For some reason, the public discourse on UC tuition always revolves around the sticker price, not the actual price. So let's walk through the realities of what undergraduates from California actually pay:
Half are fully covered by financial aid and pay no tuition at all. Another 20 percent receive some financial aid, and they pay an average tuition of $6,500-little more than half the sticker price.
I also want to be clear that the tuition increases of the past several years were primarily the result of two external factors: the Recession, and the resultant reduction in state funding. That's the truth, plain and simple. And this Board, my predecessor, and the chancellors, by all accounts did a masterful job of navigating what was a hellacious storm. Now the seas have calmed, and the time is right to take a new, deep look at our tuition policy.
Yes, there will be challenges. The State of California must do its part. The university needs additional funding for UC's Retirement Plan and enrollment growth. Any successful tuition policy will require a clear, predictable partnership with the state.
At the same time, we must do everything we can to reduce the costs of our operation. To that end, the Office of the President has embarked on an Efficiency Review initiative that is identifying all savings and cost avoidances we can undertake. But this alone will not be enough. We must be willing to assess and reform our cost structure more generally if we are to keep UC affordable.
We will also look at expanding our other revenue possibilities: grants; public-private partnerships; joint ventures; philanthropy. These revenues must all be harnessed if we are to continue to be the world-class university we are, while being as low-cost as we can be.
The fight for low tuition—a hallmark of a public university-is something all of us have a stake in. I know we can create the clear, predictable tuition policy our students and their families need and deserve. I've asked Nathan Brostrom at the Office of the President to lead this effort.
On another front, we need to re-examine how we interact with community college transfers. This is critical not only for the University of California, but also for the state as a whole. And so I have asked the Provost, and the campuses, in consultation with UC's academic leadership and our counterparts in California's other higher education segments, to address not just the need, but also the steps needed to increase and to streamline the flow of community college students who transfer into the University of California.
Provost Dorr and her staff have produced a suite of potential improvements on this front, but the main thing is to get moving. This is good for the students who choose to come through this path. It's good for UC as it moves some students through the university more quickly, without any sacrifice to the quality of their education. And it's good for the state because it broadens the span of opportunity for all potential UC students.
Again, there will be challenges. The main one is capacity. We will need to grow this university to accommodate these students, so that transfers are not supplanting high school graduates who have earned their shot.
I have asked the Provost to form a strike team, if you will, to improve both the transfer rate and the success of those students who come to us from community colleges. I expect the team to bring a set of recommendations before the Board in March. These recommendations will canvas a spectrum of potential steps forward. These might include intensified outreach to community colleges with low transfer rates or a high percentage of low-income students. They might include ways to streamline the transfer process. They might include expanding programs like Summer Bridge to give entering transfers a better shot at starting off strong. Regardless, many California students begin their higher education at a community college, yet yearn for the opportunity to get a four-year degree. We must make that opportunity more available to all.
Then there is the matter of research and the relationship of the basic research done in our labs to addressing world problems like food scarcity, energy sustainability, and disease prevention. In short, it's time to start exploring innovative new approaches to unleash the full potential of UC's research activities. We need to speed the translation of ideas and inventions that are developed by UC faculty, researchers and students into products and services that can help benefit all of society.
We do some good things in technology transfer already. These efforts have been essential to the university's role as a catalyst in California's innovation-based economy. And I want to pause for a moment and thank the regents for their efforts to prod UC along on this path. I especially want to thank Regent Makarechian for his efforts, and for chairing the working group's report on tech transfer last year.
Today, I am asking the university to identify new ways to enhance our technology transfer productivity, using the working group's report as a starting point. Where research efforts could lead to tech transfer, we should do everything possible to make it so.
This means streamlining our existing processes. It means supporting our researchers with graduate students and world-class facilities. It means removing the barriers that can slow the pace of tech transfer. And it means thinking about how we can invest in all elements of technology commercialization: patents, proof-of-concept, and early-stage investment in UC startups—everything that can help move our research into the market and into the world.
Challenges? You bet. We need to understand how best to evaluate the ideas in play. We need to figure out a system to allocate any investments. But these challenges are not insurmountable. And I've asked Peter Taylor, Steve Beckwith and the team at UCOP to draw up a battle plan and get back to me by early spring.
Finally, today I am calling for the University of California to be a zero net energy consumer by 2025.
There's a lot of insider jargon built around a goal like this one. But let's cut to the chase. What it means for UC is that at the end of the day, we will have created as much energy as we used, and the energy we will create and use will be clean energy. This is the goal.
Now, this is a steep mountain, and we have to figure out how to reach the top. But we are the University of California. And there is no reason that UC can't lead the world in this quest, as it has in so many others. I've been out on the campuses, and I know that we already have many of the resources that we need:
We have the students, fully motivated and fiercely committed to sustainability efforts, ready to go.
We have the cutting-edge science, and the scientists and researchers who are engaged in the science from an array of angles, every day in their labs, ready to go.
We have the political goodwill—starting with our Governor, who just signed a clean energy pact with Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
And we have the need, in a state whose resources are frequently overstretched and overused, and in a world that expects UC to show the way. The same resources that will help us achieve our goal will also help the State, and I am committed to working with California's leadership on this and other sustainability endeavors.
Yes, once more, there will be challenges. There will be challenges for our research labs, which require carefully calibrated and controlled environments. There will be challenges for our medical centers, which by necessity require a lot of energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And as we pursue our goal to expand enrollment, there will be more buildings, with more lightbulbs and sockets and the rest.
But these are just roadblocks. And if we want to get to where we want to go, in all of these initiatives, then we're going to have to break through a lot of them.
The good news is that research universities like UC are in the business of breaking through barriers. That's why we call them breakthroughs. It is the essence of what research universities do.
So let's get going.
In my inaugural travels around the university, I've settled on a new vision for our enterprise: UC teaches for California, and it researches for the world. Everything I have done and everything I have outlined today is meant to support this mission: education that is rooted in California, and research and innovation that fundamentally changes how the world works. If we get tuition right, if we get access for transfers right, if we invest in our own research and change the game on energy consumption, then UC will demonstrate to the nation, and beyond, the fundamental and unique value of a world-class public research university.
Chair Varner, this concludes my remarks.