Napolitano was referring to the PROSPER Act, currently sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives, which she fears would cut federal student aid such as Pell Grants and student loans, rendering college less affordable. Setting aside disagreement about what PROSPER would actually do, it was a pretty rich statement, because the University of California has been a bit of a poster child for questionable financial management.
It was little more than a year ago that the state’s auditor released a report cataloguing significant, dubious financial practices by the university president’s office, including:
- Failing to disclose more than $175 million in discretionary and restricted reserves
- Getting $32 million of that reserve from campus allocations that could have been used for student services
- Not disclosing plans to spend some of those funds ranging from $77 million to $114 million
- Compensating employees with “generous salaries and atypical benefits”
- Poor tracking of university administrative expenses
To top it off, State Auditor Elaine Howle reported that the Office of the President “intentionally interfered” with her office’s “efforts to assess the types and quality of services [the office of the president] provides to campuses.” And this is not the first financial black eye for the system. The flagship Berkeley campus has run massive athletics debts for years, and paid for them with tens‐of‐millions of dollars in campus subsidies and debt forgiveness.
In light of this, it seems a bit brash to decry the potential curbing of subsidies that are forced from federal taxpayers, which tallied almost $154 billion in the 2016–17 academic year. Why should people from, say, New York or Nevada be forced to help make up for poor financial practices and decisions in another state?