The UC-CHP project publishes blog posts, policy reports, and academic working papers.

Policy and Topic Briefs:

  • September 2018: What is the Value of a UC Degree for On-the-Fence Students? An Evaluation of the 2001-2011 UC Eligibility in the Local Context Program, Executive Summary and Topic Brief.
  • August 2018: Approaching a Tipping Point? A History and Prospectus of Funding for the University of California, Report.

In its first four decades, UC depended largely on income generated by federal land grants and private philanthropy, and marginally on funding from the state. The year 1911 marked a major turning point: henceforth, state funding was linked to student enrollment workload. As a result, the University grew with California’s population in enrollment, academic programs, and new campuses. This historic commitment to systematically fund UC, the state’s sole land-grant university, helped create what is now considered the world’s premier public university system. However, beginning with cutbacks in the early 1990s UC’s state funding per student steadily declined. The pattern of state disinvestment increased markedly with the onset of the Great Recession. As chronicled in this report, the University diversified its sources of income and attempted to cut costs in response to this precipitous decline, while continuing to enroll more and more Californians. Even with the remarkable improvement in California’s economy, state funding per student remains significantly below what it was only a decade ago. Peering into the future, this study also provides a historically informed prospectus on the budget options available to UC. Individual campuses, such as Berkeley and UCLA, may be able to generate other income sources to maintain their quality and reputation. But there is no clear funding modelor pathway for the system to grow with the needs of the people of California. UC may be approaching a tipping point in which it will need to decide whether to continue to grow in enrollment without adequate funding, or limit enrollment and program growth to focus on quality and productivity.

  • May 2017: A Century of Health: UC-Trained Medical Professionals in California, Topic Brief and Infographic.


Academic Working Papers:

What are the benefits and costs of attending a selective public research university instead of a less-selective university or college? This study examines the 2001-2011 Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) program, which guaranteed University of California admission to students in the top four percent of California high school classes. Employing a regression discontinuity design, I estimate that ELC pulled 8 percent of marginally-admitted students into four “Absorbing” UC campuses from less-competitive public institutions in California. Those ELC compliers had lower SAT scores and family incomes than their eventual peers; almost half were under-represented minorities (URM), and 65 percent came from the state’s bottom SAT quartile of high schools. Nevertheless, marginally eligible students became more than 20 percentage points more likely to earn a university degree within 5 years, though URM and less-prepared students became less likely to earn STEM degrees. Students’ net expected earnings conditional on university completion, major, and gender substantially increased across subgroups, and linked state employment records suggest an increase in URM students’ average early-career earnings.

In what ways—and to what degree—have universities contributed to the long-run growth, health, economic mobility, and gender/ethnic equity of their students’ communities and home states? The University of California ClioMetric History Project (UC-CHP) extends prior research on this question in two ways. First, we have developed a novel digitization protocol—formatted optical character recognition (fOCR)—which transforms scanned structured and semi-structured texts like university directories and catalogs into high-quality computer-readable databases. We use fOCR to produce annual databases of students (1890s to 1940s), faculty (1900 to present), course descriptions (1900 to present), and detailed budgets (1911-2012) for many California universities. Digitized student records, for example, illuminate the high proportion of 1900s university students who were female and from rural areas, as well as large family income differences between male and female students and between students at public and private universities. Second, UC-CHP is working to photograph, process with fOCR, and analyze restricted student administrative records to construct a comprehensive database of California university students and their enrollment behavior. With one university complete, this paper describes UC-CHP’s methodology and prospects for future research.

What was the role of local female role models in the growth, gender gap, and STEM major selection of early 20th century American universities? In order to examine pre-1950 American higher education, this study constructs four rich panel datasets covering most students, high school teachers, and doctors in the state of California between 1893 and 1946 using recently-digitized administrative and commercial directories. Students attending large California universities came from more than 600 California towns by 1910, with substantial geographic heterogeneity in female participation and STEM major selection. About 43 percent of university students in 1900 were women, and the number of women attending these universities increased by more than 500 percent between 1900 and 1940. Meanwhile, the number of California towns with female high school physics or chemistry teachers doubled between 1903 and 1923, while the proportion of towns with a female doctor increased from 20 to 26 percent (adding almost 60 towns) during the same period. Event study regression analysis shows that towns became 9-15 percentage points more likely to send at least one female student to the institutions examined in this study after the arrival of their first female high school physics or chemistry teacher or female doctor, implying a 2 percentage point increase in the likelihood of young women’s college attendance, but that the arrival of female STEM teachers decreases the likelihood of a town’s sending a male STEM student to university by 10 percentage points. This study establishes the role of limited information and social networks in early 20th century educational choices, and has implications for both historical growth accounting and contemporary educational practices in developing economies. It also provides a window into the tremendous socioeconomic mobility afforded by California’s commitment to mass higher education.

Blog Posts:

  • June 2017: Introducing “A Century of Health”, Brought to Life (UC San Francisco)
  • September 2016: UC Berkeley Researcher Mines HathiTrust Volumes for Cliometric History of Postsecondary Education in California, CDLInfo News (California Digital Library).


Other Products Using UC-CHP Data:

  • UC Berkeley Foodscape Map and Report: Research showing how UC Berkeley’s food and agriculture coursework has changed over time, and how diversity, equity, and inclusion have factored into Berkeley’s pedagogical approach to food and agriculture studies.