May 05, 2003

Notes: Berkeley Needs a Strategy

Conclusion: Berkeley needs to build lots of new dorms. Lots of new dorms. Even with effectively zero tuition, it is becoming unaffordable to go to Berkeley. We need to charge higher fees to business and law students (and maybe some of our engineering students?) and use the money to build lots of new dorms...

Posted by DeLong at May 5, 2003 04:37 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Is the reason Berkeley does not have enough dorms lack of money or an inability to construct new dorms because of local limitations on building?
If it's anything like the rest of the bay area, the problem is the second, so how will raising money change things?

Posted by: Maynard Handley on May 5, 2003 07:12 PM

"Even with effectively zero tuition, it is becoming unaffordable to go to Berkeley."

Hello? The value that a Berkeley education adds to one's life is so little that even with zero tuition it doesn't justify, say, borrowing to cover just the difference between the cost of living there and living somewhere else?

I'm not there so I don't know. And I went to school in NYC where I had to pay tuition and the price of a city apartment, so this whole concept is strange to me.

(BTW, wasn't there an entry on this blog a while back saying college students should pay more for their education? )

"We need to charge higher fees to business and law students..."

Discrimination? Tax-and-transfer from students getting degrees that will produce income to those getting degrees that won't? Some students are simply more deserving of a low cost of student living than others?

Posted by: Jim Glass on May 5, 2003 07:23 PM

Dorm Construction in Berkeley has had little to do with money and everything to do with a slow University Bureaucracy and an obstructionist City Council. The University has built heavily on the little land it owns. The long-term solution to the housing crunch is increased density on private land, something the City will never allow.

Not only that, but the idea of a big fee increase is far more frightening to students then slow housing improvements. Law and Business students are already absorbing much more then Undergraduates in the latest round of fee increases. And we're more worried about the immediate and heavy cuts in the amount of lectures offered, the amount of GSIs, availability of advising, and health care.

-Kevin
Columnist, Daily Californian

Posted by: Kevin Deenihan on May 5, 2003 07:44 PM

Berkeley may be best off not addressing this problem at all. Students will get sore about increased tuition and especially sore about differential tuition, but they don't put the cost of private housing in the same thought box with university bills. On the other hand, most students will grumble about increases and continue paying, especially if you do it the way we did at Penn State: the increases were introduced first for juniors and seniors who are effectively locked in.

But if what Berkeley really needs is undergraduate housing, why not set housing fees at rates that will amortize new buildings over, say, 20-30 years? From what I understand of typical university budgeting you really can't divert tuition money to housing anyway, and an exorbitant private housing market gives lots of room for maneuver.

Posted by: Altoid on May 5, 2003 08:26 PM

Berkeley may be best off not addressing this problem at all. Students will get sore about increased tuition and especially sore about differential tuition, but they don't put the cost of private housing in the same thought box with university bills. On the other hand, most students will grumble about increases and continue paying, especially if you do it the way we did at Penn State: the increases were introduced first for juniors and seniors who are effectively locked in.

But if what Berkeley really needs is undergraduate housing, why not set housing fees at rates that will amortize new buildings over, say, 20-30 years? From what I understand of typical university budgeting you really can't divert tuition money to housing anyway, and an exorbitant private housing market gives lots of room for maneuver.

Posted by: Altoid on May 5, 2003 08:31 PM

Unaffordable, and apparently, impossible, if you come from a SARS afflicted country.

Posted by: Edward Hugh on May 6, 2003 02:52 AM

>Tax-and-transfer from students getting degrees that will produce income to those getting degrees that won't? Some students are simply more deserving of a low cost of student living than others?

Some ARE more equal than others.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on May 6, 2003 03:34 AM

Theres new dorms under construction, and some new ones already up from what I can see. When I was at Berkeley almost everyone moved out of the dorms after either freshman or sophomore year. And there seems to be more vacancy signs on apt's in the city these days. So whats the problem?

Posted by: Chad Williams on May 6, 2003 03:54 AM

Berkeley suffers from a bittersweet affliction that is affecting more and more large prestigious university communities: its an attractive place to live, even for those who are not affiliated with the university.

It used to be that most universities were in somewhat out-of-the-way communities, and that land values (and thus rents) were relatively low, as the universitiy itself provided the only natural customer base for the local real estate market.

But increasingly, well educated baby boomers want to live in university communities, which they often quite rightly believe offer most of the advantages of big city life (a vibrant cultural scene, diverse and interesting people, bountiful career opportunities) AND most of the advantages of small town life (quiet tree-lined streets, low crime, human-scale communities). The quality of life in neighborhoods and towns surrounding big universities simply can't be beat.

In some places this has always been the case. Evanston, IL (home of Northwestern U.) has always been one of the most sought-after of Chicago's suburbs. Cambridge, MA has similarly been a choice address for many decades. But now we're seeing the same dynamic in many other academic communities. Ann Arbor, MI is now THE suburb of choice for well educated, high income people working in the Detroit area (and in the Detroit area, EVERYONE who can afford to lives in the 'burbs). Austin, TX, long a refuge for aging hippies, is now a prime relocation destination for all kinds of tech industry professionals. The neighborhood around Washington U. in St. Louis is easily the nicest, most desirable place to live in that city.

The only thing that keeps rents low in many college towns is that they're too far away from the main cities in their respective states to build effective bridges with the economies in those cities, and thus they don't offer a lot of jobs to people not affiliated with the university. Think Champaign-Urbana, IL, Charlottesville, VA or Athens, GA. But with the rise of telecommuting and flexible work arrangements, you can expect even these isolated college towns to eventually start attracting highly paid professionals who will drive rents up.

The housing crisis in Berkeley has many causes, but I suspect that one of them is the fact that there are lots of dynamic, educated, young people living in the bay area, and many of them want to live near the vitality (and restaurants!) of UC Berkeley. I'm not sure how the university can solve that problem, though I suspect building dorms is as good as solution as any.

Posted by: sd on May 6, 2003 08:49 AM

And one other thing. I suspect that another big problem facing universities with a housing crunch is that students' expectation for housing are so high these days.

Any big state university campus will be filled with huge dorms built in the 1960s when the baby boomers got to college. Rooms in those old residence halls were small, spartan, and generally not air-conditioned (even heat in the winter was a spotty proposition), and generally there were common bathrooms for entire floors of rooms. Today's college kids are not inclined to accept such accomodations. Whether that's because they're weak or because their parents were suckers makes no difference: the fact remains that given the choice between a reasonably priced 8'x8' dorm box and a pay-through-the-nose off campus apartment with decent closet space and central air, many students will opt for the later, even if paying the monthly rent stretches them so thin financially that they run the risk of running out of money and having to drop out of school.

Make no mistake, dorms cost money, and not just in initial construction costs. One of the reasons that a student's housing dollar often seems to go further off-campus is that you simply can't run a 1,000 resident building without providing a certain level of custodial and maintenance support, and that can be very expensive, especially if your janitors and handymen have to live in the same inflated-rent college communities as your students.

Posted by: sd on May 6, 2003 08:57 AM

Berkeley students move out after their freshman year because they don't want to live with freshmen when they become sophomores. There's only enough dorm space to guarantee a place for freshmen, so if all sophomores applied for dorms, most wouldn't get it.

At least that's the reason I moved out. If there were enough space for everyone and more upperclassmen lived in the dorms, I probably would have stayed.

Berkeley has 24,000 undergraduates and 9000 graduate students, but only enough dorm space for about 5000 students (1000 each in Unit 1, 2, and 3; 800 in Foothill; 200 in Bowles; 250 in Stern; I couldn't find the numbers for the Clark Kerr dorms, but we can assume that it's less 1000).

Non-school-sponsored student housing provides some relief, but not much. About 1,700 students live in frats and sororities, and 1500 live in student co-op housing.

In thinking about this question, we also need to remember that student housing is not just a roof over one's head, but also an integral part of the socialization and educational process. That's why the school tries to provide dorms to all freshmen, and other schools like Yale have residential colleges. When done right, dormitories can provide a sense of communities for teenagers going through an exciting but often disorienting period in their lives. UC Berkeley, unfortunately, isn't able to provide that for most of its students.

In case someone thinks that this is a new problem, I came across an article by a Charles Muscatine, who writes that such problems were already evident in the 1960s. Interestingly, Berkeley's undergraduate population has almost doubled since the 1960s (in 1965, there were 15,000 undergrads and 10,000 grad students).

For some reason, I couldn't find the Muscatine article on the main server, but it's available from Google cache. It's titled "Education at Berkeley":

http://216.239.57.104/search?q=cache:8s0gnNDrQLUC:sunsite.berkeley.edu:2020/dynaweb/teiproj/fsm/monos/brk00040709a/%40Generic__BookTextView/176+berkeley+dormitories&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

Posted by: MikeL on May 6, 2003 09:21 AM

MikeL points out the value of scialization in on-campus housing. This is a key part of the college experience, and very much in danger if there isn't enough student-only housing.

Further, if the only people in the dorms are Freshmen, then these kids miss out on the opportunity to learn from older students in a residential setting, which is a crucial part of growing up. You see the older kids living like (at least pale reflections of) adults, and it gives you models to draw from.

If I had a child going to Berkeley I'd encourage him or her to join a Greek house, even though in general I'm lukewarm at best on Frats and Sororities. At least in a Greek house he or she would have some contact with older students, and a community of friends that stretched beyond their immediate age group.

Posted by: sd on May 6, 2003 09:43 AM

Not admitting students from SARS countries should create a few vacancies.

Posted by: bakho on May 6, 2003 09:49 AM

From the Charles Muscatine article cited above (he tries to relate this to the Free Speech Movement later in the article):

When a new student arrives here, he does not find a tight-knit college community. In the survey conducted by the Committee, 30% of the undergraduates stated that they live more than ten-minutes walking distance from the campus, and it is safe to assume that this is true of a higher percentage of graduate students. Most of these undergraduates spend between two and six hours per week commuting to the University. Going to class represents for many of them somewhat the same pattern of life as going to a daily job.

In such a large student body with widely scattered residences and a high rate of turnover, it is hardly surprising that many students feel alone in a community of strangers. In the April 1965 survey, almost two thirds of the students felt the University to be an "impersonal institution," and one third agreed that they "often feel lonely walking on campus even though there are crowds of people around." Loneliness is one factor behind the decision of many freshmen and entering transfer students to drop out of Berkeley. The women who transfer to other campuses of the University of California give as their main reason for leaving Berkeley their feelings of isolation because of its large size and impersonality. Loneliness is, of course, a general problem of the individual in society and is very likely to assail young persons who are leaving their homes or local schools for the first time. A residential situation that provides close relations with other students reduces the rate of drop-outs. Students living at home (and therefore presumably commuting considerable distances) or in private rooms and boarding houses are much more prone to leaving than those who enter dormitories, co-op housing, fraternities, and sororities.6

A dearth of close student contacts has its effect on the informal intellectual life of the campus. The opportunities for active intellectual exchange among peers are far more restricted at Berkeley than at small private colleges. Many Berkeley students find their friendships limited to a few intimates. For many of those who remain at the University, solitude or social intercourse with a few associates, which began as a necessity, ends by becoming a way of life. There is a notable tendency for students after some time here to shift to private apartments, either alone or with a roommate or two. They move into converted private homes and old apartment buildings in the flats south and west of the campus, seeking quiet and privacy and the freedom to come and go as they please.

Many of these features of student life at Berkeley have a long history. Transfer students and apartment living have long existed. In the last decade, the replacement of former boarding houses with new high-rise dormitories has counteracted the scattering of student residences. Nevertheless, the fragmentation of the student body has been magnified, if only by the sheer increase in numbers and places of origin.

As a result, a unified college community cannot be found here, even among the undergraduates. When a student's year of graduation has little relation to his year of entrance, when almost half a graduating class has done most of its work elsewhere, when a third of the students live outside the vicinity of the campus, the small-college loyalty to graduating class and even to college must wither. It is not surprising that in the usual student elections for class officers only about one tenth of the eligible students vote.7 A large proportion of this tenth lives in fraternities, sororities, and certain dormitories—havens of tradition in which the world of college spirit still finds refuge. For the other students, Berkeley is first and foremost a place to get an education. Lacking the old-fashioned sense of college community, they fall back on smaller campus groupings and limited circles of friends. Their normal activities do not imbue "Berkeley" with the connotation of shared experience that exists at smaller institutions.

A feature of many colleges which adds to the student's sense of belonging is close contact with members of the faculty. A professor can assume the role of surrogate parent for the student newly departed from home or can provide personal adult recognition of his work in preparation for life in an adult world. These needs, more than dissatisfaction with the particular method of teaching, lie behind the frequent complaints about the large lecture courses in the lower division. The same reasons account for much of the prevailing resentment expressed against undergraduate advising. Advisers spend little time with students and change all too frequently. "I can't even remember the names of my advisers for the last three semesters" is a quotation that could come from countless students in many areas of the University. In the absence of a real adviser, a student will sometimes turn to one of his professors, but these too change, and as one student put it, "You never go back to see a professor after you're out of his course." These complaints are directed especially at certain parts of the College of Letters and Science. The professional schools and colleges are smaller and frequently do provide the desired intimacy with professors.

Under these conditions the popularity of the "factory" metaphor begins to be comprehensible. Incoming students contrast their experience at Berkeley with their lives in high school or junior college. The University does not fit the common concept of what a college should be, and in their disappointment, they find "factory" an apt description. Few students have actually worked in a factory, but they know that it is a place where identical articles are mass-produced and workers are treated impersonally.

Posted by: MikeL on May 6, 2003 10:22 AM

Why pick exclusively on students? Why not tax the faculty? Some Berkeley faculty are aparently doing well enough that they have $91K tax bills. Many own homes that have appreciated in value quite rapidly over the past 5-10 years.

If the faculty don't want to pay the tax, they can each host a student in one of their spare rooms.

Posted by: Instahack on May 6, 2003 12:34 PM

Maybe it's time to finally kick the hippies out of People's Park and build a damn dorm there...

Posted by: jimbo on May 6, 2003 01:51 PM

Perhaps Berkeley is at capacity. You can add student spaces at Irvine, Riverside, and Merced much more cheaply. And by spreading UC spaces out you probably make it easier and cheaper for working class students to get a UC quality education.

Posted by: CalDem on May 6, 2003 02:15 PM

Perhaps Berkeley is at capacity. You can add student spaces at Irvine, Riverside, and Merced much more cheaply. And by spreading UC spaces out you probably make it easier and cheaper for working class students to get a UC quality education.

Posted by: CalDem on May 6, 2003 02:20 PM

I think the University Village in Albany is an example of student housing that Berkeley can be proud of. Buildings in the newer sections are very well planned and modern. The buses run all the time between the villlage and the UC Campus and there's quite a lively graduate student community there.

I think there should be a smiliarly bold plan for undergraduate housing - together with a plan to increase the sense of community among undergraduates. I agree with CalDem that a constraint on capacity should be considered. I just don't see how the university can continue to expand without having the quality of eduation suffer. The best undergraduate instructors are often graduate students as they have the time and take the effort to talk to the students. Berkeley could use more small undergraduate seminar classes led by faculty members, but I don't see that happening with the budget problems and size of enrollment (tidal wave) that's expected in the next few years.

Posted by: teddy on May 6, 2003 04:31 PM

What Berkeley probably needs are lots of programs for executives and other professional types, which can be priced way higher than usual, because their employers
will cover the cost.

Posted by: Jon H on May 6, 2003 04:50 PM

Why do we always have to pick on the law students? We have loans too - even more than the undergrads. And those of us that aren't going to work at big firms won't be able to pay those loans off so quickly...

Posted by: Ryan Walters on May 6, 2003 06:34 PM

It's not just a matter of finances. Currently the undergraduate education experience at Berkeley is maybe even more factory-like than it was in the 1960s. The administrators, I'm sure, already realize this.

Let's see if the economics justifies this.

For the fiscal year 2002, the state govt of California is spending $3.2 billion on the UC system. http://www.lao.ca.gov/2002/spend_plan_02/0902_spend_plan_chap_2.html

Divided by its undergraduate population of 150,000, that comes to $21,000 per undergrad. Combined with the $4000 per year of tuition, about $25,000 is being spent on each undergrad.

The tuition at Ivy schools is about $27,000 a year. From these numbers alone, it would seem that the UC's not that far behind in terms of per student expenditure, which would lead one to think that UC schools should have comparable class sizes to the Ivys. But the reality is that undergrad class sizes, at least at Berkeley, are much larger, often in the 80-100 range for upper-division classes, and much larger for lower-division classes - with the exception of Freshman composition classes taught by graduate students.

What gives? Is the UC spending that much more on administration cost? I hear that the UC pays professors much less than the Ivys.

(I'm leaving out the 30,000 or so grad students to simplify the calculation. Many grad students at private school don't pay tuition. So the serious differential would come from the much smaller number of professional students.)

Posted by: MikeL on May 6, 2003 06:39 PM

MikeL is forgetting about the endowment income at the Ivies.

Posted by: jam on May 6, 2003 07:08 PM

Not forgetting. Just simplifying to get a baseline calculation. So how much money per capita do the endowments add?

Posted by: MikeL on May 6, 2003 11:45 PM

My daughter is at a womens' college, so they sent us a whole bunch of fund-raising stuff which included a comparison of the endowments of various womens' colleges (in order to demonstrate their need for a larger one). There were two womens' colleges with billion dollar endowments: Smith was one. Figure you can take a 5% draw, so $1B gives you $50M a year. $50M across something less than 5,000 students is something more than $10,000 per capita per year.

Harvard, I believe, has an endowment an order of magnitude above that.

Posted by: jam on May 7, 2003 04:48 AM

Apologies: (1) for misapostophreing "women's college" consistently and (2) for attributing twice as many students to Smith as are actually there. What I get for typing at the breakfast table.

The two women's colleges with billion dollar endowments are Smith and Wellesley. Smith has an enrollment of 2650, Wellesley an enrollment of 2300. So on average, they could reasonably draw around $20,000 per student from their endowments. Their tuitions are $23,400 and $25,022 respectively. So endowment income is comparable to tuition income. Recognise that both colleges use some of their endowment income to discount tuition for (make financial aid grants to) deserving students, so their total income per student is less than the sum of endowment and tuition.

Posted by: jam on May 7, 2003 08:10 AM

Apologies: (1) for misapostophreing "women's college" consistently and (2) for attributing twice as many students to Smith as are actually there. What I get for typing at the breakfast table.

The two women's colleges with billion dollar endowments are Smith and Wellesley. Smith has an enrollment of 2650, Wellesley an enrollment of 2300. So on average, they could reasonably draw around $20,000 per student from their endowments. Their tuitions are $23,400 and $25,022 respectively. So endowment income is comparable to tuition income. Recognise that both colleges use some of their endowment income to discount tuition for (make financial aid grants to) deserving students, so their total income per student is less than the sum of endowment and tuition.

Posted by: jam on May 7, 2003 08:13 AM

Isn't there also rent control in Berkeley?

Posted by: Ryan Walters on May 28, 2003 06:59 PM
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