* We Can Restore California’s Higher Education…If the Leaders Lead

By Stanton Glantz
cross-listed from KQED

 

Conventional wisdom says the UC and CSU funding crises are the inevitable result of recession-driven budget shortfalls, and the only solution is to soak students and their families. But it’s bunk. Shifting costs from the public to students is a deliberate act of public policy. Well before the recession, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the UC and CSU presidents signed the Higher Education Compact. UC and CSU accepted huge cuts in state support and agreed to rapid annual tuition increases in exchange for a broken promise of future financial support. And, though a Democrat, Jerry Brown is accelerating the transformation of higher education from a public good the people of California provide for the benefit of all to a private good students buy. This is a radical reversal of the spirit that built California. But what’s been done can be undone. In fact, it would not cost much to push the “reset” button on California’s entire higher education system, from community colleges to UC’s graduate programs. We can roll fees back to 2000 levels, restore state funding and accommodate the students who’ve been forced out. And it would only cost the median taxpayer $49. To today’s jaded sensibilities that sounds far-fetched. But it wasn’t so long ago that a passion for that kind of thinking built California in the first place. This affordable “reset” will never happen unless university officials stop acting like highly-paid executives at financially failing corporations, start behaving like stewards of a public trust and start making the case to do it.

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