By Robert Cruickshank | California Progress Report
April 17, 2008 - California higher education has not been having a good decade. When Arnold first took office a series of major cuts were made to the UC, CSU, and community college budgets. In 2004 a compact was agreed to between the UC and CSU leaders and Arnold, guaranteeing a stable, if low, level of funding. That agreement has been heavily criticized for having accepted a lower standard of state support - and that criticism looks to be merited, as Arnold now proposes to violate that agreement with his 10% cut of higher ed funding.
As a new study by the Campaign for College Opportunity shows, the proposed cuts would have the effect of severely curtailing enrollment by as much as 27,000 over the next two years, which is the size of an average UC or CSU undergraduate campus enrollment. And a study by the UC Academic Senate found that "to maintain educational quality" student fees would have to rise from $7,500 to $10,500 - a staggering increase from an already high level:
“"The Schwarzenegger revision accelerates the redefinition of the University of California away from a public university and toward a 'public-private partnership,' " the UC study said. "The university becomes dependent on high student fees for delivering its core educational mission. . . . The university becomes quasi-private or poor -- or perhaps both at once."
“UC has been suffering for years from what the Academic Senate study called a "hollowing out" because of lack of money. "From a distance, all appears normal; once one goes inside, the damage is clear," it said. Leaky roofs go unrepaired; valuable faculty leave for better-paying universities...”
The problem of "faculty brain drain" from public to private institutions is a serious one across the country but is hitting UC and CSU the hardest, as their funding has been the most dramatically impacted.
The study and the cuts were the subject of an article in today's LA Times which contained some quotes from higher ed leaders about the impact of these cuts:
“Diane Woodruff, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, said the governor's proposed cut would mean those campuses would not be able to provide classes for more than 50,000 students. An additional 18,500 would not receive financial aid.
“The cutbacks would most affect low-income, first-generation and nonwhite students, who generally depend more on university services, she said...
“"By 2025. if we continue on this same course of cumulative budget cuts on a cyclical basis, the California workforce will be 3 million short and California will not be competitive," Cal State Chancellor [Charles] Reed said.”
In other words, Arnold's proposed 10% cut of higher education would have a crippling effect on California's economy. The student fees increases would squeeze middle-class families even more dramatically, and would be difficult for young students to pay - especially as student loan availability is shrinking due to the credit cruch - even the notorious Sallie Mae claimed "we're at the cusp of peak lending."
But this is sadly part of a larger pattern for Arnold and his Republican allies. Don't let their occasional bickering and infighting fool you - they stand shoulder to shoulder when it comes to this state's future. They all agree that our economy and the middle- and working-classes should be sacrificed for the sake of a few wealthy Californians who don't want to pay more taxes. They agree that to save voters $150 a year in vehicle license fees, public education - from kindergarten to undergraduate - should be destroyed.
The article notes that "Despite the dire situation the universities and community colleges find themselves in, education leaders have been reluctant to challenge the governor." It looks like that task is going to fall to the students who, abandoned by their schools' administrators, are launching a statewide protest on Monday, April 21 to oppose these cuts.
Robert Cruickshank is a historian, activist, and teacher living in Monterey. He is a contributing editor at Calitics.com and works for the Courage Campaign, in addition to teaching political science at Monterey Peninsula College. Currently he is completing his Ph.D. dissertation in US history, on progressive politics in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s. A native Californian, he was raised in Orange County and educated at UC Berkeley.