Director of Early Outreach and Support Programs
California State University, Monterey Bay
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>>This story is taken from Peter Schrag at sacbee.com.
>>Peter Schrag: On higher ed: The governor's march to the rear
>>By Peter Schrag -- Bee Columnist - (Published March 24, 2004)
>>As students march in protest and university trustees talk policy, the
>>biggest shadow cast by California's higher education budget cuts and fee
>>increases isn't the immediate hardships for students and their colleges,
>>but the state's lack of direction and vision.
>>The most significant element in that budget is Gov. Arnold
>>Schwarzenegger's decision to put a greater share of the pain on the
>>state's four-year universities than on the community colleges - to
>>emphasize access over research and high-end quality.
>>Under the state's fiscal circumstances, that may not be an unreasonable
>>decision. The community colleges have gotten the short end of the stick
>>for years. But it also has left a lot of academics wondering whether the
>>governor really understands the invaluable asset that the state's higher
>>education system represents. And since Schwarzenegger wants to raise
>>graduate student fees by some 40 percent, he's also jeopardizing one of
>>the state's highest priorities - the effort to attract better people
>>teaching. Making them pay 40 percent more is hardly a come-on.
>>The decision to favor access is an obvious departure from those of prior
>>administrations, which almost invariably favored the politically
>>influential University of California over the much larger but otherwise
>>politically weak two-year colleges. But if the switch signals anything
>>more than the administration's short-term belief that it can get more
>>for its buck in the community colleges, no one is saying.
>>In the "exceptional bind" that the state finds itself, said Assistant
>>Secretary for Higher Education Anne McKinney, the immediate task "is
>>enrollment management." And as last week's fee debates at the separate
>>meetings of the UC regents and trustees of the California State
>>made clear, the administration is glad to leave as much of that hot
>>in other people's hands.
>>But since the governor's car tax cut added $4 billion to the
>>bind," since his budget doesn't increase access anywhere and since it
>>hamstrings the options of the state's colleges and universities, the
>>situation would be truly frightening if it were anything but an ad hoc
>>Even before Schwarzenegger was elected last fall, budget cuts - fee
>>increases, reduced space in courses, the spill-over from UC and CSU -
>>already reduced access in the community colleges so much that an
>>175,000 students had been driven out of the system.
>>The governor is correct that his proposed community college fee
>>- from $18 to $26 per unit ($780 per year for a full load) - will enable
>>students to qualify for the maximum federal Pell Grant (of $4,000 a
>>thereby ending the state's inadvertent subsidy to the federal program.
>>He's also right that even with the proposed increases, California
>>community college students will still be paying less than 40 percent of
>>what the average American community college student pays, and that most
>>California's university students, graduate and undergraduate, still pay
>>considerably less than the average in other U.S. public universities.
>>But in the very act of citing those comparisons, Schwarzenegger raises
>>fundamental questions about the direction in which he proposes to go. A
>>growing number of major public universities - Michigan and Virginia
>>particularly - have been sent well down the road toward privatization,
>>where taxpayers bear an ever-shrinking part of the cost, and tuition,
>>grants and revenues from various big-bucks entrepreneurial programs pay
>>the difference. Is that the way California is headed?
>>It's not clear that anyone in Schwarzenegger's shop has yet confronted
>>such questions. The governor likes to talk about the wonderful
>>opportunities California offered when he first arrived here as an
>>immigrant in 1968 - the period of the great expansion of California's
>>universities, when college attendance was virtually free.
>>But as so many of those UC professors now ask: Does he understand how
>>the quality of those institutions - the research they perform, the
>>they draw, the possibilities they offer - contribute both to
>>business climate and its quality of life? It's premature to say that the
>>promise of the state's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education has been
>>broken. The master plan guarantees UC admission to the top 12.5 percent
>>the state's high school graduates and CSU admission to the top third,
>>it also makes the two-year colleges the gateways to the universities. If
>>Schwarzenegger's proposal to shift more of the instructional load in the
>>first two years to the community colleges increases the number of
>>transfers to the four-year colleges, it might actually help revitalize
>>But until there are decent data, there's no way to know. It's that
>>ignorance about the condition of the system - and California's broader
>>indifference to planning and serious thought about its future - that's
>>A great many of the cuts and shifts and fudges in California's higher
>>education budget might be defensible if there were a longer term vision.
>>Schwarzenegger came to office promising to be a leader, but so far his
>>clearest call has been for a resolute march to the rear.
>>About the Writer
>>Peter Schrag can be reached at Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852-0779 or
>>[log in to unmask] Back columns: www.sacbee.com/schrag
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