A reader who perused my university earmarking story asked me an interesting question this morning:

Do you happen to know the total budgets of the Universities you write about. Twenty-five years ago UCSD La Jolla’s budget, astoundingly, was nearly the same as the entire City of San Diego’s.

To be honest, I did not, but I promised that I would find out.

The most recent comparable numbers I could find for the three universities discussed in my story — University of San Diego; University of California, San Diego; San Diego State University — are from 2005.

One interesting comparison is in research grants: SDSU had a total of $42.2 million while UCSD received $728.4 million — though the amount they got from federal earmarks was largely the same. (Under the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education, the University of California system is supposed to serve as the research arm of the state, while the California State University is supposed to train teachers and other skilled professionals. In fact, the Master Plan largely prohibits the CSUs from doing original research.)

With these numbers out there, one final note: It may not make sense to compare the total revenues of the universities to the city, because, unlike San Diego, the universities don’t have a “general fund” to spend as they wish. At the public schools, much of the money is set aside for specific programs and projects, and cannot be diverted to other uses.

At UCSD, with which I’m most familiar (I’m an alumnus), the major portion of the student’s education fees is controlled by the vice chancellor of academic affairs. Students also pay a “registration fee” that goes to the vice chancellor of student affairs. And what they pay for campus housing goes to the vice chancellor of business affairs. So, as you can see, the total numbers don’t tell the whole picture.


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