Berkeley’s overall budget continues to rise modestly from year to year. Total university revenue rose from $1.7 billion in fiscal 2007 to $2 billion in 2010. The universities of Michigan and Virginia have seen a similar increase.
But much of Berkeley’s money comes in grants and gifts earmarked for specific uses. Dollars for educating students come mostly in state educational appropriations and net tuition revenue. Those sources together have generated less money per student each year since 2007, university officials said.
Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau says the class crunch is easing, the fruit of a strategic investment in “gateway” courses in reading and composition, math, science and language.
“We are threatened,” Birgeneau said. “We are not in decline.”
‘A lot of stress’
Berkeley’s rolling hilltop campus, overlooking San Francisco Bay, feels like a crossroads of the world. At the stroke of 6 o’clock on a recent evening, the chiming of the carillon on one side of campus vied for attention with the pulsing of a Taiko drum ensemble on the other. The university is the pinnacle of the nation’s largest state higher-education system, with 350 degree programs and a science portfolio enriched by the neighboring Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More than 60,000 students have applied to next fall’s freshman class, one of the largest numbers seeking entry to any American university.
They come, in large part, for the dazzling faculty. Matt Walker, a sleep psychologist, transfixed his audience one fall morning with a lecture on homicidal sleepwalkers. Walker had polled the class at the start of the term and found it averaged 6.75 hours of nightly slumber. After a semester of sleep pedagogy, the average was up to 7.25 hours.
“Essentially, every lecture I gave you added 60 seconds to your sleep time,” Walker told students, to laughter.
The faculty and students who took up study here in 1873 dreamed of building not just a university but a new society, liberated from the rigid class strictures they had left behind back East.
Berkeley became the jewel of a higher-education system that rewarded merit above wealth, access before privilege. This wasn’t mere public education but something more ambitious. State leaders eventually gave the endeavor a fitting name: the California Master Plan.
But now, the California economy is paralyzed, and the plan is in tatters.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) this month announced an additional $100 million reduction to the $2.3 billion University of California annual budget, already pared by nearly a billion dollars in the downturn.