Discussion of state funding for and tuition at the University of California at Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting was remarkable both for its candor and for the absence of original ideas and creative approaches from the UC leadership or the politicians on the board. It served only to give all parties a very public forum at which to reiterate their long-held positions. Although the rhetoric was often eloquent, passionate, and cogent, little was accomplished.
President Napolitano presented her assessment of the funding needed to slowly repair the damage done to UC quality by the cumulative effects of massive budget cuts by Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown. However the President’s confrontational proposal to “stabilize the budget” by increasing tuition by 5% for each of the next five years continues to play the politicians’ game within a very constraining box. More could be accomplished through a dialog including increased transparency of the UC budget and consideration of a broader range of options.
Neither tuition increases nor the cost cutting measures proposed as alternatives to state reinvestment in California public higher education can generate sufficient funding to restore access, affordability, and quality at the University.
There is a better way: provide California students and their families high quality, affordable higher education, as defined by the California Master Plan for Higher Education.
Tuition should not increase or even merely be capped but rather rolled back to 2001-2002 levels. Unlike many dreams, offering affordable, high quality public higher education to all is a bargain. It would cost the median California household just $50 a year. (Details of calculation are at http://keepcaliforniaspromise.org/3553/restore-2013-14.) This approach recognizes public higher education as a public good and thus spreads the obligation to fund it in an equitable way over the population of the state.
The Council of UC Faculty Associations urges all UC constituencies to join with others in California public higher education in a constructive approach which seeks to revitalize the Master Plan and restore quality in the UC system while avoiding both tuition increases and cost cutting that serve only to degrade the educational mission.