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Q&A with Janet Napolitano on first year leading UC

Janet Napolitano, former secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security and governor of Arizona, marked her one-year anniversary Tuesday as president of the University of California system. She sat down with a representative of The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board to talk about the year. Below are edited excerpts of the wide-ranging discussion including her future prospects and recent controversial and large raises for four UC chancellors.

With the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder, if offered the job would you take it?

I’ve been in Washington and I’m in California. I have the best job in public service, and I’ll just leave it at that.

Would you rule out other future public offices?

I don’t play “what if.” The focus I have is on this university and what we need to do and what were doing.

What is the right balance between out-of-state and foreign students and in-state students?

I don’t think you can have a rigid formula. … But I do think there needs to be a balance between in-state and out-of-state – out-of-state could be other United States or international. We’ve always had a mix of out-of-state students. That’s healthy.

But another reason we’ve been admitting out-of-state students is because they pay for a California student. It is an arithmetic issue, and there we have to be careful. Are we achieving the right balance vis-à-vis our oldest campuses, Berkeley and UCLA, which are very, very popular, and other campuses because the numbers aren’t the same? The systemwide average of out-of-state students is about 13 percent, but Berkeley and UCLA are both over 20 percent.

The chancellors, myself and the regents are looking at that and looking at it in the context of preparation of next year’s budget.

Every time CSU or UCs give out raises, journalists write about them.

And you’re wrong.

How do you explain to a student that pay raises are justified?

I know these people. I have worked with them for a year. They work all the time. They are among the hardest-working individuals I have ever seen. But they haven’t had raises and, in their market, the University of California is like falling off the low end. The raises that were given are an attempt to bring us up over time, not even at top of the comparator schools but toward the middle. If these were football coaches, nobody would raise an eyebrow.

Why didn’t UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi get a raise?

The regents just did the bottom four because there was a key concern that some of our longest-standing chancellors at Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara have had their salaries frozen for years (and) that it was just not right that they basically be off the scale. … The direction to me from the regents is to come back to a plan for the other ones.

Has the governor in your opinion been supportive enough of the UCs?

I think that there is room for continued dialogue between the UC and the governor as to what is the right level of state support. What does he want from public higher education, and I mean not just for us but for CSU and for CCs as well? I suspect he’s going to be re-elected. But he will be in his last term. I have been a governor in my last term, and you’re thinking about what is your legacy. You want to make sure it is as strong as can be. … And I’d like higher education be on the agenda for him.

Do the UCs need more money?

Yes

Do you know how much?

No, but we would love to have more public support to take the pressure off things like tuition and fees. We are in the third year of a tuition freeze and I think, fairly, in November, everything will have to be on the table.

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