Statement of Robert W. Cherny
Chair, Academic Senate of the California State University
September 23, 2003

ATTACHMENT 2 TO AS-2632-03/FGA/AA - September 23, 2003


I am chair of the Academic Senate of the CSU, which is elected by and from the faculty of all twenty-three campuses. I am here to present a faculty perspective on the quality of the educational enterprise in the California State University.

The first purpose of the Senate, as defined in its constitution, is "to promote academic excellence in The California State University." In carrying out that purpose, the senate has been deeply concerned with the erosion of quality in the CSU since the early 1990s. Among the traditional indicators of quality are the professional training of the faculty; the student-faculty ratio; comprehensive and up-to-date library collections; classrooms, laboratories, and studios that are adequate in number and size and maintained to current standards; functioning and up-to-date equipment; and adequate staff support. All of these indicators affect the quality of learning for the students of California. The CSU suffered seriously from the state's fiscal crisis in the early 1990s. Many key indicators of quality were seriously eroded at that time, and most have not yet recovered. We now face a new round of budget-cutting even though we have not yet recovered from the cuts of a decade ago.

I'll present information on a few of these traditional indicators of quality so that you can understand the seriousness of our current situation.

We can begin with our library collections. Universities' reputations rest in part on their libraries. Access to a comprehensive and up-to-date library is essential for students' education. Libraries acquire new books each year so the university community will have access to current scholarship. Thus, acquisition of new books is an indicator of quality. Graph 1 shows new book acquisitions in the CSU1. Graph 2 shows the librarian-to-student ratio, one measure of the ability of library staff to assist students when they need help.

Graph 1

Graph 2

US News and World Report affirms that "Research shows that the more satisfied students are with their contact with professors, the more they will learn and the more likely it is they will graduate."2 One indicator of students' contact with their professors--and perhaps the most important single indicator of quality--is the student-faculty ratio (SFR), shown in Graph 3. The larger this ratio, the more difficult it may be for all students to have close and on-going contact with their professors. The SFR is an average, of course, and small changes may not seem significant. Let me describe the real import of SFR increases. First of all, multiply the ratio by five to get the number of actual students per faculty member. Then realize that the SFR is an average, and that some classes cannot be increased in size (e.g., composition classes, foreign-language classes, seminars). As a result, much of the increase comes in lower-division lecture courses--the foundation classes for most students. This increase in students per section reduces the opportunities for individual feedback and work with those students. Graph 3 demonstrates both the significant impact of the fiscal crisis of the early 1990s on this important measure of contact between teachers and students and also the

Graph 3

failure of this indicator to return to pre-1990 levels.

Another indicator of quality is the proportion of faculty members who are tenured or tenure-track. Graph 4 shows the long-term pattern and suggests that nearly

Graph 4

all enrollment growth during the 1990s was accommodated by the use of part-time, temporary faculty rather than by the hiring of additional tenure-track faculty members through national searches. The marginal-cost formula for funding growth has led the CSU to an excessive reliance on part-time, temporary faculty hired to teach specific courses instead of full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty who form the backbone of the institution through their teaching, research, advising, and committee work3. We thank you for the commitment the legislature affirmed in ACR 73 (September 2001) that the CSU should seek to "raise the percentage of tenured and tenure-track faculty to at least 75 percent." In response to ACR 73, the Academic Senate, the CSU administration, and the California Faculty Association developed a plan that remains among the highest priorities for the Academic Senate and other members of the CSU community.4

Not surprisingly, the faculty workload has increased. Surveys in 1990 and 2001 indicated that CSU faculty members spent an average of 48.5 hours per week on their university responsibilities in 1990 and 50.2 hours in 2001. By accommodating enrollment growth largely with temporary faculty, the tenured and tenure-track faculty have found themselves not only with more students in their classes but also more advisees and more committee assignments.

Faculty members put in more hours and teach more students, but since 1990-91 faculty salaries have consistently lagged behind those in comparison institutions.5 Graph 5 presents CPEC data on faculty salaries. One result is that the average full

professor today has less purchasing power than in 1989, a situation that raises questions for our ability to continue to attract and retain a faculty of high quality.

In conclusion, the CSU has experienced long-term erosion in many indicators of quality. It is still too early to have accurate data on the affect of the budget cuts of 2003-04 on these indicators of quality, but we can be certain that they will not improve. The only question is how much more erosion will take place. Given past and anticipated budget cuts, the quality of California public higher education is seriously in danger. The faculty and students look to you for leadership to restore and maintain the quality to which the CSU is committed and California is entitled.

Attachment: Origins and Shortcomings of the Marginal-Cost Formula (taken from The California State University at the Beginning of the 21st Century, a report adopted by the Academic Senate CSU in 2001)

Funding Educational Quality through Funding Growth: The Marginal Cost Formula The Academic Senate CSU is deeply concerned about the current funding pattern for the CSU and especially with the funding for growth. Formerly, funding for campus growth was based on an elaborate statistical model embodied in a set of need-based formulae known as the Orange Book. Then, in the midst of the state's financial crisis, unallocated reductions in CSU funding grew from year to year. Finally the formulae of the Orange Book were dropped because the Trustees saw little utility in making need-based requests that were funded then reduced significantly but with the expectation that access would be unaffected. With the demise of the Orange Book, the CSU, UC, Department of Finance (acting on behalf of Governor Pete Wilson), and Legislative Analyst's Office negotiated a new approach based on a percentage increase in the previous year's funding plus a specific amount per student (the "marginal cost") for enrollment growth. This approach was first used in the 1995-96 budget. For fiscal year 1996-97, the parties negotiated a marginal cost methodology based in part on previous practice and in part on justifying the figure of $5,900. The formula developed then has been used since then, adjusted each year based on appropriations from the previous year. This marginal-cost formula incorporates a number of factors, the largest single component of which is the cost for additional faculty, which is calculated based on the annual salary of a mid-range assistant professor (currently, in the formula, $44,940) and a student-faculty ratio of 18.9 to 1. The cost of teaching assistants is based on a teaching assistant to student ratio of 107 to 1. Several cost elements are "discounted," i.e., calculated at between 65% and 90% of the previous year's average on the assumption that there are economies of scale--that adding an additional student does not require adding the full dollar amount per student. Some costs do not appear in the marginal cost formula at all, on the assumption that there are fixed costs that exist independently of the number of students.

The Academic Senate has two major concerns with the current marginal cost formula:

  • The current average salary for an assistant professor, as of Fall 1999, was $49,510, as compared to the $44,940 used in the formula. (The $44,940 figure is based on Assistant Professor Step III on the salary scale, long the standard for figuring the cost of a hire.) Even the $49,510 figure is misleading, for some campuses have recently found that they must offer at least $50,000 to attract new hires in the humanities and social sciences (traditionally the most poorly paid disciplines) and considerably more in business and other hard-to-hire fields.6 Yet $44,940 appears in the current calculations because the formula specifies a particular step on the salary scale. The formula is based not on the average dollar amount necessary to recruit new t/tt faculty, but instead on a particular step on the salary schedule. It has already been noted that the CSU salary schedule lags behind those of comparison institutions. In addition, only a part of recent salary increases has been used for general (across-the-board, or cost-of-living) salary increases, and only a general salary increase applies to all the steps on the schedule. At an earlier time in the history of the CSU, there were fewer steps on the salary schedule and a large portion of every annual salary increase was a general increase, i.e., was applied to every step. More recently, a significant part of every salary increase has been used to fund step increases and merit pay, and there has been a considerably smaller proportional general increase than was formerly the case. As a consequence, the salary schedule has failed to increase at anything close to the changes in the cost of living or the salaries at similar institutions. Thus, the $44,940 figure is an artifact of a previous time, not an accurate reflection of current reality. The clear implication of the continued use of this artifact is that the more a new t/tt hire is paid above $44,940, the fewer dollars will remain to hire lecturers to fill those classrooms for which the marginal-cost formula does not supply sufficient funds to hire a t/tt faculty member. Thus, the marginal cost formula contributes significantly to a continued, and even increasing, reliance on poorly paid lecturers.

  • The 18.9:1 student-faculty ratio (SFR) in the marginal-cost formula is a similar artifact of a particular time in the state's history. Before the fiscal crisis of the early 1990s, the CSU was budgeted for a SFR that ranged from a low of 16:1 in 1966-67 to a high of 18.07:1 in 1986-87. For the five years from 1986-87 through 1990-91, the last five years when there was a budgeted SFR, the range was from 17.74:1 to 18.07:1, with a median of 17.85:1. During those same years, the actual SFR ranged from 18.15:1 to 18.51:1, with a median of 18.39:1. Yet the marginal-cost formula incorporates a SFR of 18.9:1, which was a compromise between the 18.1:1 SFR sought by the CSU and the 19.6:1 SFR that actually existed in 1993-94. Thus, 18.9:1 is another artifact of the crisis years of the early 1990s when the SFR ratcheted upward in a sudden and dramatic fashion. By employing 18.9:1, the marginal-cost formula freezes in place this artifact of the crisis rather than seeking to restore pre-crisis levels of funding and creates a floor on efforts to reduce the SFR. In addition, the 18.9:1 ratio fails to differentiate between lower-division, upper-division, and graduate FTES. In addition to those major concerns, the negotiated discounted marginal rates raise questions. Instructional support is discounted by 10%, academic support by 15%, student services by 20%, and institutional support by 35%. While no one will question that there are economies of scale, these particular percentages should be examined periodically in the light of empirical data to verify that, in fact, the size of the discount is appropriate to the actual economics of scale. Finally, there is the assumption that some costs exist independently of the size of the student body and therefore need not appear in the marginal cost formula. The salary of the president is often presented as an example of such a fixed cost. However, the average presidential salary for the seven largest campuses (as of July 2000) was $217,786, the average presidential salary for the eight mid-sized campuses was $211,807, and the average presidential salary for the seven smallest campuses was $196,539, which suggests some relationship between presidential salary and size of student body, if not a direct, one-for-one relationship. To be certain, presidential salaries make up a very small proportion of total costs, as do the salaries of provosts and police chiefs. Like the discounted costs, the fixed costs need to be subjected periodically to some empirical testing to confirm that, in fact, they continue to exist independently of changes in FTES. All in all, the current marginal-cost approach works contrary to several of the major objectives of the faculty of the CSU to restore or enhance the quality of CSU education:
    • The current marginal-cost formula discourages significant reduction of the student-faculty ratio and discourages efforts to reduce class size.

    • The current marginal-cost formula discourages tenure-track hiring and contributes significantly to a continued reliance on poorly paid lecturers.

    • The current marginal-cost formula discourages the growth of graduate programs by funding them in the same way that it funds lower-division undergraduate programs.

    • The current marginal-cost formula may discourage the growth of high-cost programs--whether they are high-cost because of a low SFR (as is the case with many graduate and post-baccalaureate professional programs), or because they rely heavily on senior faculty, or because of significant equipment costs.

The Academic Senate CSU acknowledges and supports efforts by the CSU to modify the marginal-cost formula by increasing the faculty salary level and introducing a graduate differential. The Academic Senate urges the continuation of those efforts and expansion of them to address other shortcomings in that formula and in other components of the CSU budget to make the budget as a whole more sensitive to the needs of CSU instruction. If the state wants increased attention to the high-cost, high-tech, upper-division and graduate programs that will prepare tomorrow's workforce, then CSU needs permanent (not one-time) funding supplements that recognize the costs of such programs. The Academic Senate also recommends creativity. Instead of following the long-time pattern of funding following growth, use funding to encourage particular developments: create a fund for quality and innovation aimed specifically at restoring and enhancing quality (e.g., reducing SFR by creating introductory seminars in majors or for general education, encouraging major degree programs to require a senior seminar) and at launching or expanding high-cost programs to meet workforce needs.

1 Unless otherwise noted, data for all graphs come from the CSU Statistical Abstract or current compilations by the CSU Chancellor's Office; see
3 A full discussion of the origins and shortcomings of the marginal-cost formula is attached.
4 The ACR 73 plan may be found at
5 The data for Graph 5 comes from the California Post-secondary Education Commission.
6 In 2002-03, the average salary for an assistant professor in the CSU was $54,872. Some campuses found, when hiring tt faculty members during 2002-03, that they had to offer at least $55,000 to be competitive in the academic job market. The average salary for a FTE temporary faculty member in 2002-03 was $51,586. By contrast, the marginal-cost formula figure for 2002-03 was $45,696, well below either the cost of a new tenure-track hire or the cost for a FTE temporary faculty member.

September 23, 2003

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