Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Master Plan R.I.P.

We have reached a crucial moment in the destruction of California's commitment to affordable quality higher education for its residents.  Starting in 2011-12 the UC system will get more of its funds from student tuition than from the State while a higher proportion of out of state than in-state applicants has gained admission to several campuses (including Berkeley and UCLA). 

As difficult as the last few years have been, it is clear that the state has crossed a threshold in its disinvestment in higher education and that UC has crossed a threshold in its disengagement with California.  Unless reversed, tuition will continue to increase and UC's role in educating Californians will decrease.  To make matters worse, fees at both the community colleges and CSU are going up while both systems are being forced to cut back on their number of classes.

Of course, by the logic of the recent auditor's report of UC none of these developments point to any crisis.  As Chris pointed out, the Auditor saw fit to classify student tuition as a source of public funding.  To make matters worse, they decided to calculate funding on a year to year basis which enabled them to insist that for most of the last 5 years state funding had gone up--while sidestepping the fact that over the period as a whole it had dropped by nearly 10% .(17-18)  Remarkably, again as Chris noted, UCOP did not object to these claims--thereby allowing the notion that student tuition was public funding to go unchallenged. (79-86)

The Regents and UCOP will, of course, bemoan all of these developments.  But the question remains: will they challenge them?

The history is not encouraging.  The inability or refusal of the University's leadership to articulate a defense of higher education as a public good, and its consistently deprecating references to the liberal arts as financial drains have contributed not only to a series of tuition hikes and cutbacks, but it has reinforced a profoundly perverse redefinition of the public.  Indeed, President Yudof's long history of suggesting that only grants and donations bring money into the university has contributed to the notion that undergraduate education is a burden on the public.

The University--its faculty, its staff, its students, its resources--is suffering as a result.  And so is the future of higher education in the state.  Unless, and until, UCOP and the break with their conviction that there is a private solution for a public trust UC will be asking students to pay more for less.


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