Fall 2011 Welcome and State of the Campus Message

Chancellor Birgeneau's Fall 2011 Welcome and State of the Campus Message

August 26, 2011

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, Cal Parents and Friends:

As I reflect on the new academic year, I look out from California Hall onto the Doe Memorial Library and am reminded that it is a landmark older than the main library at Yale, Princeton, Michigan, or Harvard.  This magnificent library, celebrating its centenary this year, exemplifies Berkeley’s enduring excellence, a precious legacy that has been accessible to hundreds of thousands of students who have passed through its doors. The Doe is currently surrounded by scaffolding, as its roof undergoes repair, a reminder that sustaining access and excellence requires investment.


The Budget Context

This year, because of the state of the economy and the decisions made in Sacramento, the university continues to face significant financial challenges.  We are transitioning to a new financial model in which the State is now no longer even a tertiary partner.  Federal research funding, philanthropy, and students are each contributing more funding than the State.  The State’s funding for education has now fallen to at best 12% of our overall budget. In contrast, in 2004, Berkeley received about 35% of its funding, some $450 million, from the State. If the educational compact entered into then with former Governor Schwarzenegger had held, this amount would have grown to $600 million this year.  Instead, we expect to receive only $235 million and may even lose a further $15 million if the State’s revenue projections are not met and a “trigger cut” to the University of California is activated. 

Regrettably, the steep loss of state funding has meant higher tuition for our students this year. Fortunately, our robust financial aid program cushions the effects of the tuition increase for many students. The new revenue from the tuition increase makes up less than half of the loss of state funding to the campus. 

Despite the disinvestment in public higher education by the State of California, we remain committed to ensuring that Berkeley maintains its preeminence and its unique public character as one of the world’s finest universities.


Sustaining Access and Excellence

Undergraduate Education

We cannot sustainably afford to educate significant numbers of Californians for whom we receive no state funding and have worked to bring our California resident undergraduate enrollment levels closer in line with our target number.  We have been overenrolled for the past several years and are gradually reducing the number of undergraduate California residents to our targeted enrollment of 21,000 FTE (Full-Time Equivalents).  We currently offer undergraduate education to some 21,500 Californians, the same number as in 2006-07.  However, in 2011-12 only about half of these students will actually be funded by the state.

At the same time we are increasing the number of international and out-of-state students.  Our goal is to raise our international and out-of-state undergraduate student population to 20% of our total undergraduate student body by 2013-14.  To reach this goal, our freshman class of 5600 students this year is 19% out-of-state and 11% international students.  Of our new 2700 transfer students, 17% are international and 2% out-of-state. 

In addition to the cultural and intellectual enrichment that these students bring to the campus, the additional revenue from these students, who pay significantly higher tuition, will go to support all of our students, including our California students. 

We have used some of the new revenues to add more than 1700 seats to lower-division, high demand courses.  This year we hope to provide 650 more places in Reading and Composition courses and increase accessibility by another 500 seats in large introductory classes in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and statistics.  We are also beginning to add 30 new foreign language classes.  For 2010-11 and 11-12, we have allocated more than $6.25 million for this effort. Thanks to some funding from the monetization of a patent, we are also planning to construct two new biology teaching laboratories.  

We need to be preparing our students for an increasingly globally-interconnected world and, accordingly, we are planning to increase significantly the number of Berkeley students going abroad as part of our undergraduate educational experience.  This past year, we launched Cal Energy Corps, a paid internship program that engages our best undergraduates to help develop and deliver sustainable energy and climate solutions around the world.

Comprehensive Excellence

We are doing well on many fronts in sustaining access and excellence.  In world rankings such as the Shanghai Jiao Tong, or the London Times Higher Education rankings, we are consistently among a very small set of the world’s truly preeminent universities.  We have attracted outstanding undergraduate students from our most competitive applicant pool ever, and have drawn some of the nation’s very best graduate students.  This year 156 of our graduate students are winners of prestigious National Science Foundation Fellowships. We and MIT are leaders in this competition.  We continue to renew our faculty and our distinguished, award-winning professors are being joined by 46 new faculty.  This year we will be looking to fill about 80 faculty positions.  Despite efforts to lure our faculty away, we have not experienced a “brain drain.”  Our faculty tell me that Berkeley provides an exciting intellectual environment of comprehensive excellence in which they can research deep and important questions, explore issues from the perspective of many disciplines, and advance the frontiers of knowledge.  Our faculty are also deeply committed to our public mission.  Fortunately, we will be able to provide a broad-based salary increase to our faculty this year, although we still continue to lag behind our peer institutions in faculty salaries.


Access and Affordability

Our public mission is perhaps best exemplified by our ability to educate students in large numbers from all socio-economic groups.  Our almost evenly distributed mix of students from low-income, middle-income and upper-income backgrounds provides a unique and rewarding teaching and learning experience for faculty and students.   Some 36% of our students are receiving federal Pell Grants, which means that they have family incomes under $45,000 a year.  We have as many Pell Grant students as all of the Ivy League universities put together.  Thanks to philanthropy and to our financial aid policies, particularly the return to aid of one-third of all tuition increases, we are able to help students from low-income families with substantial grant aid.  

We recognize that middle-income families, especially those in the $80,000 to $120,000 income range, who receive little grant aid, are finding it much harder to cover their costs and we will be working to find ways to make college more affordable for these families.


Equity and Inclusion

Equity and inclusion is at the soul of this institution and I am especially proud of the progress we are making on our equity and inclusion initiatives.  We continue to work hard at outreach for underrepresented minority students and to create a welcoming climate for every member of our campus.  We are very pleased that AB 130 was signed by Governor Brown to allow the University to give some scholarship support to undocumented students. We are seeking philanthropic support from foundations and other private donors who are interested in supporting scholarships for undocumented students.

We have just recruited an outstanding scholar who will join us in January to be head of the Haas Diversity Research Center which will now have six areas of focus including recently-added clusters on Economic Disparities, LGBT, and Disabilities.  We are hoping to add a research cluster on Religion that would examine the nature and implications of religious diversity in the United States and the world today.

New Initiatives

We are continuing to launch a number of cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research initiatives in the sciences, humanities and social sciences including recently the Berkeley Energy and Climate Change Institute and the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society.

Two initiatives to promote innovation-based entrepreneurship and to take advantage of the Bay Area innovation ecosystem to help translate basic science into scalable, real world applications are being created:  one within the Berkeley Energy and Climate Change Institute and a second, called “Skylab,” an innovation center in the city of Berkeley in partnership with the College of Engineering.

This year Berkeley will be an active participant in the UC Online Pilot Project effort to offer degree-credit courses on-line. Seven Berkeley courses were accepted for the project. The School of Public Health may also be offering Berkeley’s first online/on-campus master's degree.


The Fundraising Campaign

Our alumni and donors continue to have confidence in our future and we are grateful for their generosity.  Our fundraising Campaign raised $315 million this past year bringing us to $2.2 billion in our $3 billion campaign.  87 of our 100 Hewlett Chairs have been funded. 

All five teams that were to be eliminated from Intercollegiate Athletics were restored because of the outstanding efforts of donors and supporters who raised more than $20 million.  Athletics is on track to reduce its need for campus support to $5 million by 2014.  Our donor-funded state-of-the-art Student Athlete High Performance Center is set to open next week.  Memorial Stadium refurbishment is moving ahead for opening next year while our Golden Bears play this football season at AT&T stadium.  This past year, for the first time ever, Cal was in the top five nationally in the Director’s Cup.

Operational Excellence

Our dedicated staff are very actively engaged and working tirelessly to make Operational Excellence a success.  This effort to improve our administrative operations has already achieved more than $20 million in permanent annual savings.  We expect this to grow to $75 million a year annually, funding that will be put back into our educational and research mission.  It is vitally important that we retain our talented staff and I am pleased that after four years without salary increases, our unrepresented staff will this year be able to receive a merit increase.  Our unionized staff, often among our lowest paid staff, have negotiated salary increases. 

Facilities and Infrastructure

Fortunately, we have been able to continue to build new facilities for our faculty and students.  We must have 21st century facilities if we are to compete effectively in the 21st century.  Most of these have been funded through public-private partnerships.  Our Berkeley School of Law students return to an attractive new addition on the southeast corner of campus that now houses the school’s renowned library collection as well as a new classroom, reading and study area, and café.  This year we will open the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences.  The Helios/Energy Biosciences building is now under construction.  The Lower Sproul planning is proceeding well.  Funding and plans for the Berkeley Art Museum are advancing.  We are continuing to focus on sustainability efforts to improve our environment and save costs.

Looking Ahead                 

Looking ahead, one of our major funding challenges will be our growing pension obligation, since the State of California still is not contributing to UC pensions as it does for the community colleges and CSUs.  We are beginning now to think about the new funding sources that we will need as we go forward and continue to develop a long-term budget model and strategies that will sustainably support Berkeley.

To remain a leading institution and provide the education that our students deserve and to be the university in which our alumni take so much pride, Berkeley must continually advance.  We must also continue to make the case demonstrably to the people of California and to our legislators that excellence and accessibility in public higher education is worthy of their investment.

We are a very resilient institution.  I am confident that all of those who are part of Berkeley – faculty, staff, students and alumni – will bring their ingenuity, innovation and effort together to create opportunities to help us meet our challenges.                 

I welcome your input on the challenges and opportunities ahead. Please send me your comments to chancellor@berkeley.edu.

With warm regards,

Robert J. Birgeneau


University of California, Berkeley