Hey, Gov. Jerry, what has happened to the values and promises to do the right thing? We all thought you knew that California higher education was in need of a rescue, not further defeat for California’s public higher education institutions. What has happened to your cool factor? According to a severe new budget plan laid out by our newly elected Gov. Jerry Brown, he has plans to slash $1.4 billion. Ouch! That hurts.
In an effort to take on the state’s huge budget shortfall, the governor plans to cut $500 million each from both the University of California and California State University, in addition to stripping $400 million from California Community Colleges. These amounts result in an 18 percent cut in financial support for California State; 16.4 percent for the University of California; and a 6.5 percent cut for the state’s community colleges. These are heavy blows to education, at a time higher education is adjusting to recent previous cuts.
The state’s annual per-student contribution would drop even further, as student contribution continues to rise. Student contribution has risen steadily during the state’s economic crisis, as a series of hikes in tuition, euphemistically labeled “fees,” have hit students hard. Across California the increasing seemingly endless tuition and fee hikes have sparked student protests, and increased anger among students and faculty alike. Faculty question whether continuing cuts to education will further erode quality of the state’s public education system.
University of California President Mark Yudof called the reductions to the UC system a “sad day for California.” Chancellor of California State University, Charles B. Reed, opined last week that the new higher education cuts will limit student access. “We will work with the administration and the legislature to minimize, as much as possible, impact to students. However, the reality is that we will not be able to admit as many students as we had been planning for this fall.” Reed said.
According to Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, in a statement outlining a similar warning, he predicted that “up to 350,000 students will be turned away next year.”
Last October a deal was worked out to restore funding to public higher education in the state, but Gov. Brown’s plan would reverse those gains won. Brown’s plan would have $9.8 billion in general fund spending for public colleges and universities in 2011-2012, approximately 11.6 percent of the total general fund spending. While that amount is about the same as the average percentage share higher education has received over the previous decade, that average actually includes several years of considerable budget reductions.
In a joint statement last week, the heads of the three educational systems impacted by the cuts — Yudof, Reed, and Scott — suggested that the new cuts are actually counterproductive to the state’s economic recovery.
Their released statement reads: “It is clear the governor wants to engage Californians in a full and open discussion about what size of government they are willing to support. As leaders of the state’s three public higher education systems, we are eager to participate in that conversation. Given the vast demographic shifts underway in California, now is not the time to shrink public higher education, but to grow it. The road to recovery from this recession and prosperity far beyond it runs straight through our many campuses. These universities are the economic engines of California.”
Given that according to the current Time magazine cover story on jobs, education is the key to future jobs more than ever before, these latest rounds of education cuts seem worse than shortsighted. Indeed; what are they thinking?
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