What share of UC Berkeley's budget would you guess comes from the state of California? The answer: a mere 11 percent.

Many people's first reaction to hearing this is surprise and even alarm. When the two of us were undergraduates at Berkeley, the state's share of support was well over 50 percent. So, on first glance at these numbers, concern that UC Berkeley -- long the paragon of public universities -- is becoming a private institution, is understandable, but unnecessary.

We believe that UC Berkeley is more public than ever.

The essence of Berkeley's "publicness" is not about finances. It's about our core mission and values, which differ from our nation's fine private universities. It is about Berkeley's unwavering commitment to access and diversity that makes it more public than at any time in its history.

In the face of reduced state financial support, UC Berkeley remains the nation's No. 1 public university. Survey after survey reaffirms this preeminence.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau for eight years has worked tirelessly to protect and expand Berkeley's access and diversity. We are confident that after Birgeneau steps down at the end of the year to return to the classroom and laboratory, his successor will carry on in the same tradition, likely building on some of the safeguards Birgeneau helped institute to ensure Berkeley remains strongly and proudly public.

Today, Berkeley students reflect the increasingly diverse and rich composition of California and the nation.


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This year, despite rising tuition, applications to UC Berkeley surged 16 percent to reach record levels. Prospective students understand that UC Berkeley opens the doors of opportunity and transforms lives. They also know that the university welcomes talented students from all ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Diminished state funding is surely lamentable, but it is just part of the equation. For a more complete picture, consider some other important numbers:

  • In 1960 almost all UC Berkeley undergraduates were middle or upper-middle class. In 2010, 34 percent were Pell Grant recipients, meaning they came from households with annual incomes below $45,000. We have more Pell grant students than all eight Ivy League universities combined.

  • The campus enrolls 50 percent more undergraduates today than it did in 1960.

  • Recently the campus launched a Middle Class Access Plan to offset the impact of rising tuition for middle-class students.

  • Some 70 percent of students receive some form of financial aid, making a superior college education accessible for deserving students.

  • Today, roughly one-third of all Berkeley undergrads are the first in their families to be receiving a four-year college education.

  • UC Berkeley is the all-time top producer of volunteers for the Peace Corps, which is synonymous with the public service orientation that comes naturally here at the world's top public university.

  • In 1960, more than half of Berkeley undergrads were white males. In 2010 this group represents only 15 percent of the undergraduates.

  • In 1960, 90 percent of Berkeley's undergrads came from families where both parents were born in the United States. In 2010, more than 60 percent of UC Berkeley's undergraduates came from families where both parents were born outside the U.S.

    Even in the face of tough financial challenges, UC Berkeley occupies its own enviable category. And Berkeley continues to serve as an inspiring model for all of higher education due to its unmatched dedication to access and diversity, the core values that protect the "publicness" that benefits us all.

    Richard Lyons is the dean of UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business and has been on the faculty at Berkeley since 1993. Robert Haas is the chairman emeritus and former chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co. and is the chairman of national annual giving for the Campaign of Berkeley.