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Outgoing UC President Yudof Optimistic Despite Challenges

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UC President Mark Yudof (lanl.gov)

UC President Mark Yudof (lanl.gov)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Outgoing University of California President Mark Yudof, while saying he is optimistic, told a San Francisco audience Tuesday that the university faces several challenges, and funding isn’t the only one.

Yudof, 68, has been at the helm of what he called “the greatest public university system in the world” since 2008. He plans to step down in August to teach law at UC Berkeley.

The UC president oversees 10 campuses from a central office in Oakland. The system operates under a federal principle, Yudof said, in which individual campuses have autonomy in certain areas such as the hiring of faculty and coaches.

Yudof spoke at a noon meeting of the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco.

Asked by PPIC chief executive Mark Baldassare to describe the biggest challenges facing the university, Yudof answered, “There are many,” but put state funding cuts at the top of the list.

Funding reductions during the state’s budget crisis have been a “significant disinvestment in high education,” Yudof said.

“I could write just ‘look for money’” in a hypothetical note of advice to his successor, Yudof joked.

Other challenges, Yudof said, are increasing the graduation rate, increasing accountability, and reaching out to low-income students.

Yudof said he is proud of the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan initiated during his tenure. The program guarantees financial aid to students whose families have an income of less than $80,000.

Asked to predict what UC education will be like 10 years from now, Yudof said he expected greater use of online courses.

“Faculty and students will be more comfortable with it and it will be of higher quality,” he said.

But there will always be a need for students to be on campus and interact in person with teachers and other students, Yudof said.

The president said there may be changes in the structure of some degrees. For example, an alternative to a two-year master’s program in business administration might be a one-year certificate in a particular area of finance, Yudof said.

In addition, “I can see the concept of a major changing,” Yudof said.

All in all, Yudof said, “I think people will get the education they want and need” from the university a decade from now.

In a comment made after the session ended, Yudof said he is confident UC will continue to be a leading world university despite the challenges.

“I am optimistic,” Yudof said, noting that there has not been a large outflux of the university’s Nobel-laureate-studded faculty and that admissions demand has remained high.

Yudof said UC is unique because the combination of its faculty, the large amount of research it sponsors, and the economic diversity of the students it has been able to serve.

Yudof noted there is a heavy demand for admissions at the new UC Merced campus and the University of California, Los Angeles had nearly 100,000 applications for undergraduate admission for next year, which UC officials say is the largest number of any university in the nation.

“The people of California have been voting with their feet,” he said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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