The U. California Commission on the Future convened in San Francisco last Monday to analyze its working groups’ first round of recommendations, focusing on those that address financial and enrollment challenges.
“This meeting was the first opportunity for the commission to discuss and analyze the first set of recommendations from the working groups that were presented to the regents in March,” said Steve Montiel, spokesman for the UC Office of the President.
The Commission on the Future, created by UC Board of Regents Chairman Russell S. Gould last July, is composed of five working groups whose aim is to address issues ranging from the university’s size and composition to strategies for increasing UC funding.
Several recommendations took center stage during last week’s discussion, including proposals to continue exploring online education, improve indirect cost recovery rates from research, and streamline the transfer process for community college students.
These recommendations were presented by the five working groups that were in charge of examining the size and shape of the UC, its education and curriculum, access and affordability, and funding and research strategies.
At the meeting, the commission endorsed a pilot project to explore the expansion of online course offerings, according to a statement from the UC Office of the President.
The project, for which fundraising has already begun, will develop up to 40 online undergraduate courses in order to gauge the quality, learning effectiveness and costs of online education.
According to recommendations from the Education and Curriculum group, online instruction could potentially lower the amount of time required for students to earn a degree, enable distance learning, and enhance the community college transfer process.
However, the expansion of online instruction has drawn criticism from members of the Alternative Commission on the Future, a UC community group established in May to allow students and faculty to propose alternative solutions.
A survey conducted by the alternative commission has revealed that 680 out of 1,000 respondents, all of whom are members of the UC community, do not favor moving classes online, giving the program a grade of C or lower.
“The survey results show that students are weary of paying more and getting less, and that faculty and students both oppose the idea of moving more classes online,” said Robert Samuels, president of the University Council-American Federation of Teachers and an organizer of the alternative commission.
In addition to discussing online instruction, last week’s meeting also featured analysis of recommendations to streamline the community college transfer process.
These recommendations include the creation of more efficient transfer pathways for high-demand majors and improvement of the Articulation System Stimulating Interinstitutional Student Transfer website, which provides online information for community college students interested in transferring to the UC.
The proposed changes are intended to better prepare community college students for the UC system and to increase access for the large numbers of low-income, underrepresented students who begin their higher education in community colleges, according to the Size and Shape working group’s report.
While the first round of recommendations to the commission came from the working groups, last week’s meeting also featured recommendations from the Academic Council, the administrative arm of the Academic Senate which is chaired by Henry Powell, also a commission member.
The recommendations of the council asserted that by reducing the size of faculty, administration and other staff in the short term, the university could maintain access to high quality education for the diverse student population of California.
The council also recommended forgoing new building and capital projects not essential for safety, unless funding is available to support and maintain such projects.
The Commission on the Future will meet again in August for further discussion of the recommendations from the working groups, the Academic Council and other members of the UC community.