California's Not-So-Public Higher Ed

| 10/3/2012 2:35:49 PM

Sather Gate For Sale

It was the greatest education system the world had ever seen. They built it into the eucalyptus-dotted Berkeley hills and under the bright lights of Los Angeles, down in the valley in Fresno and in the shadows of the San Bernardino Mountains. Hundreds of college campuses, large and small, two-year and four-year, stretching from California's emerald forests in the north to the heat-scorched Inland Empire in the south. Each had its own DNA, but common to all was this: they promised a “public” education, accessible and affordable, to those with means and those without, a door with a welcome mat into the ivory tower, an invitation to a better life.

Then California bled that system dry. Over three decades, voters starved their stateand so their colleges and universitiesof cash. Politicians siphoned away what money remained and spent it more on imprisoning people, not educating them. College administrators grappled with shriveling state support by jacking up tuitions, tacking on new fees, and so asking more each year from increasingly pinched students and families. Today, many of those students stagger under a heap of debt as they linger on waiting lists to get into the over-subscribed classes they need to graduate.

California's public higher education system is, in other words, dying a slow death. The promise of a cheap, quality education is slipping away for the working and middle classes, for immigrants, for the very people whom the University of California's creators held in mind when they began their grand experiment 144 years ago. And don't think the slow rot of public education is unique to California: that state's woes are the nation's.

Dream Deferred 

10/14/2012 7:32:36 PM

I was touched by your comment. For what it's worth, the State University system of New York (SUNY), which I initially attended in the 70s and then returned to in the 90s and 2000s, still provides a great education, especially at the four universities in Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, and I think Brockport (?), and they are relatively inexpensive compared to almost any other school. {P.S. SUNY also has many colleges distributed throughout the state, some in urban areas and some in rural areas.} Good luck to your children and their education endeavors!!

Frances Rice
10/8/2012 2:24:00 PM

I grew up in California and went to college there in the late 70's and early 80's. Tuition at state universities was $192.00 a year. My familiy's total expenditure for me to live away from home, pay tuition and books was $3000.00 per school year. That's $300.00 a month all expenses included for the 10 month school year. My parents supported me, but many students worked their way through school and paid all their own expenses. Now I have my own children approaching college age. We are having to think a bit more creatively about the future. I know I don't want them exiting their higher education with the equivalent of a mortgage!

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