Thursday, July 14, 2011


                The State Legislature seems poised to cut more funding from The University of California system, which will almost certainly cause another rise in tuition. 

Legislator bashing is the latest indoor sport at Cal this year.  Talk to any dean or faculty member and they will tell you that the California State Legislature is eviscerating the University of California by instituting draconian budget cuts.  The cuts are draconian, but the blame is misplaced.

                Presumably the legislature reflects the will of the people of the State of California.  The question then becomes, “Why aren’t citizens of this state demanding that their legislature comes up with the money to adequately fund our UC system?”

                I submit that the fault lies with the University, and its departure from its charter as a Land Grant University, and more specifically its departure from the California Master Plan for education (completed in 1960 under the direction of the revered Clark Kerr).  

Clark Kerr’s stated goal was to balance the “competing demands of fostering excellence and guaranteeing educational access for all.”

                Since I know it best, I will focus on Cal, but the crisis holds true for the entire University system.
                My grandfather graduated from Cal in 1912.  My parents graduated from there during the War and I graduated in 1970.  Recently, my three  kids did likewise.  I bow to no man in my love for Cal.  As a family, we are the classic example of all that is great about California Public education.  

                Each generation got a world class education and was able to obtain a higher standard of living than the previous one.  (The jury is still out on whether my children will do better than my generation did).

                When my youngest graduated in 2009, there was palpable evidence in the Greek Theater that somehow Cal had gotten off course, vis a vis its mission as far as taxpaying citizens are concerned.

                Despite dozens of banners flying, there was not one American Flag, nor was there the California State flag.

                Three major speakers addressed us.  One was a Dean with a stentorian British accent.  Another was a woman with a beautiful French accent.  Robert Reich, from New Jersey, gave the keynote address.

                Chancellor Birgeneau is from Canada and the student speaker (they don’t have a “valedictorian” in the traditional sense), was born in New Delhi, and lives in Ottawa, Canada.   She was sensational, frankly as were all the speakers. 

                But it interested me that there was not a California Driver’s license among the lot of them.

                We’re not talking skin color here.  And this is not about Xenophobia. 

Most of us support Cal’s embracing of diversity, but my guess is most of the State’s citizen’s want it based on merit, not simply pigmentation.

                Chancellor Birgeneau has often boasted that over 40% of  Cal’s students  have at least one parent who was born in a foreign country.  

                He is actively recruiting out of state and foreign students because they pay over $33,000 in tuition as opposed to around $12,000 for in State students.   Roughly a third of this year’s entering Cal freshman class will be out of state or foreign.

                Each time a wealthy kid from Texas or New York is admitted, a deserving Asian, Latino, or African American from California is denied.

                To add insult to injury, the University is adapting a new admissions plan which overrides the Master Plan’s goal of “Admitting the top 12.5%” of all High School students.

                Under the new guidelines the top 9% of every high school senior class in the state will be admitted to at least one campus.  This means students from under-performing schools with a B average and below 1500 SAT scores, but who are in the top 9% of their graduating class will be admitted ahead of students with an A average and above 2000 in the SAT’s who attended  a more difficult school, but weren’t in their class’ top 9%.

                Imagine a Latino kid with  a 4.0 gpa and 2000 on his SAT’s who attends  St. Helena, Acalanes or Lowell high school, being denied admission so that another kid at an underperforming school can be admitted with a 3.0 average and 1400 on his SAT’s?

                This dumbing down of the campii is grossly unfair to those children who are working hard and deserve to get in.

                                                                                                Tax payers are being asked to subsidize the education of foreign students, underperforming minorities, out of state students, even children here illegally.  Is it any wonder they don’t demand that more of their tax dollars go to higher education?

                We are a generous people.  We are willing to pay for an educational system that rewards merit and is California-centric.  This is not about Xenophobia or racism.  It’s about the ability to send our own children (of whatever color) to an institution we, the tax payers, are funding.   

                                When the UC system is returned  to the citizens of California and not a place which displaces  tax payers’ children in favor of foreign born or out of state students, then  and only then will the citizens of this state demand that their representatives fund  an educational system that is built to satisfy their needs, desires and aspirations.  Cal abandoned its own people.  Is it any wonder they’ve abandoned Cal?


1 comment:

JL said...

Dear Jeff:

This is not a case of the UC taking the initiative to screw the taxpayers of California. This shift in admissions policy was made in response to a $650 billion cut, basically divesting the UC of any semblance of being a "state" university. Without any funding, how could the UC possibly maintain the Master Plan?

The mathematical fact is, which you ignore, increasing out of state students in fact subsidizes in-state students, not the other way around as you claim. Out of state students pay nearly $20,000 more than in-state students, whereas UC actually spends far less than their out of state tuition on them.

Taxpayers have to actually pay tax to be considered taxpayers. Where are these mythical taxpayers funding the UC you are mysteriously referring to?

Sorry, Jeff, but you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you want higher education in California, which still ranks as the top public university system in the nation (and the world), you need to pay for it.