Greater state support for grad programs urged
| 26 October 2005
Citing the importance of graduate education and research for California's economy, University of California officials called on the state to increase funding for graduate programs at a legislative hearing held last week in Sibley Auditorium.
Leading university administrators and faculty joined business leaders in laying out their case to Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D-La Caņada-Flintridge), chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee.
M.R.C. Greenwood, UC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, explained why graduate education is essential to California. "In a knowledge-based economy, competitiveness depends on discovery, innovation, and a highly educated workforce," she told the committee. "Graduate education and research have fueled California's innovation and economic development."
She cited a 2001 UC study that found that California's innovation and prosperity are at risk because of inadequate investment in graduate education. This underinvestment, she said, is also affecting student access, because many students are not receiving enough financial support to pay for a graduate education.
A. Richard Newton, dean of the College of Engineering, echoed Greenwood's concerns about both student access at the graduate level and the impact on the state's vitality if investment in UC's research mission falters. "With increasing student fees, the self-help levels that will be required of our students become astronomical and, for many, simply unmanageable," Newton said.
Without increased investment from the state, he continued, it will become more difficult for Berkeley to continue to attract high-quality students and leading faculty, especially in engineering, where campus salaries are at a historic low compared to peer institutions. And without the best students and the best faculty, Newton said, "we will not lead in the creation of new industries and new jobs for California."
Liu acknowledged that many of her colleagues in the Legislature do not view graduate education as a priority. "Most people don't appreciate graduate students," she said. "If we want to help a vibrant economy in this state, we need to be a partner in stimulating and contributing to our schools."
Also testifying at the hearing was Corey Goodman, now an adjunct professor of neurobiology at Berkeley and president and CEO of Renovis, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company in South San Francisco. Goodman spoke about the interdependency between industry and the University of California.
"The state of California needs the biotechnology industry, both for its economy and for the health of its citizens," he said. "And the biotechnology community needs the state's higher-education system to continue to thrive, supply its creative fuel, and teach and inspire its workforce."
Goodman, who spent 18 years as a professor at Berkeley, co-founded Renovis in 2000 along with two colleagues from Berkeley and one from UCSF. A large percentage of the employees at Renovis are also UC alumni, he said.