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UCLA plan to end state support for MBA program faces roadblock

UCLA’s controversial plan to end state funding for the main MBA program at its management school and instead support it with tuition and donations has hit a significant roadblock that will at least delay the proposal.

A powerful committee of the UC system’s faculty senate recently voted to suspend its review of the Anderson School of Management’s plan and raised questions about the proposal’s budget, its effect on educational quality and affordability for students and possible undue influence by donors. The panel also said that current UC rules for starting self-supporting programs would not allow such a change for a pre-existing, full-time master’s degree in business.

UC officials said it remained unclear what the next step would be. Some said UC President Mark G. Yudof could in theory still approve the funding change but that he was unlikely to do so without faculty support.

UCLA leaders have said the proposed change was the best way for the program to thrive in an era of state budget cuts and would allow it to become more innovative. But critics described it as a move toward privatization of public higher education.

Those divisions were evident in June when UCLA’s faculty senate leadership voted 53 to 46, with three abstentions in favor of the Anderson school change.

In a letter last week, the systemwide Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs said it voted 10-0, with the UCLA representative abstaining, to stop considering the plan and urged UC officials to come up with new rules on how existing programs that receive state funds might become self-supporting.

“Ad hoc consideration of individual conversion proposals does not serve the interests of the university or the people of California,” said the letter written by committee Chairwoman Rachael Goodhue, a UC Davis professor.

Current criteria call for, among other things, self-supporting programs to serve non-traditional students, such as those attending part-time. But the 720 students in the full-time Anderson MBA program “have exactly the sort of age and experience that is normal and traditional,” said the committee’s letter to Anderson Dean Judy Olian.

Allison Holmes, an Anderson school spokeswoman and assistant dean, said Tuesday that the school was looking at the implications of the committee ruling and that it was too soon for a response.

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