Moving forward after Prop. 30

UNIVERSITY ISSUES: While Proposition 30’s victory is a relief, it is not a permanent fix. The state must re-evaluate its vision for higher education.

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California needs a new long-term plan for public higher education.

In the wake of the passage of Proposition 30 — whose rejection would have triggered a staggering $250 million budget cut to the University of California and a likely 20.3 percent tuition increase — it is easy for officials to avoid making any radical changes to the state universities and colleges. They seem safe.

But, as supporters of Prop. 30 acknowledged during the campaign, the ballot measure is only a stopgap that does not permanently eliminate the threats public education faces. While voters averted a short-term crisis, the proposition’s tax increases are temporary. The UC, CSU and community colleges are still in need of comprehensive solutions to make their structures more sustainable.

UC officials have said that Prop. 30 will give them the flexibility  to begin negotiating a multiyear funding plan with Sacramento under which  the university would begin to receive gradual increases in state funding. If  the university successfully implements that plan, it would help to alleviate certain financial struggles by finally calming students’ constant fears of imminent fee hikes amid a climate of uncertainty around state funds. However, a multiyear funding agreement cannot be the only result of Prop. 30 — the university must take more severe actions to resolve its challenges.

The state’s strong commitment to higher education began in 1959, when education leaders created the California Master Plan for Higher Education, much of which was embedded in the Donahoe Higher Education Act, passed by the state Legislature in 1960. The plan established the framework of the UC, CSU and community college systems we know today. Unfortunately, since the master plan’s inception, California has reneged on several key aspects of its initial vision  due to persistently rough political and economic climates in the state. For example, one of the plan’s key components “reaffirmed California’s prior commitment to the principle of tuition-free education to residents of the State,” according to the university. The state has long since abandoned that element.

While volatile tuition levels inhibit the UC and CSU’s ability to remain affordable, another central principle of the master plan — access — is deteriorating. Californians can see evidence of this danger across the state’s community college system, which has turned away half a million students in recent years, according to the Los Angeles Times. The state’s inability to ensure that even community colleges can adequately provide for all students is indicative of a greater need for higher education officials to re-evaluate the master plan and determine whether a new one is needed.

When voters approved Prop. 30, they made it clear that they value investment in education. Now, the university and the state must figure out how they can best deliver on that investment. Though large-scale changes will be difficult to talk about and even harder to implement, it is imperative that university officials discuss them now, when they have some breathing room, rather than in the face of an immediate catastrophe later.

The UC Board of Regents is set to meet next week. The conversation starts there.

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  • HeSaid1

    Here’s what Bob Meister, UCSC Politics Professor has to say about the collusion between the State, UC Regents, and using ever-increasing tuition to fund their own agenda–NOT education:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/26/american-students-the-coal-miners-of-today/

  • Tony M

    My “move forward” is one I have been contemplating and planning for some time now. The big question now is do we move our business to Arizona or Nevada?

  • Calipenguin

    The editors’ suggestions are a good start, but it still leaves the university in a position of weakness. The university will always beg for scraps from the Democrat supermajority in the legislature. What the university should do is threaten the legislators and Governor Brown. Anyone voting for cuts to UC will be targeted for recall or defeat by the combined might of the UC and CSU students, faculty, and administration. Make the legislators raise UC and CSU’s funding priority. How’s that for a trigger? We would no longer be hostages, we would be the gunmen.

  • Tahoebum

    California will no longer get ANY income tax from this 1%’er. I will be moving to Incline Village, Nevada in January. Many of my wealthy friends are doing the same.

    • guest

      No offense, but I don’t know anyone who got in the top 1% by trolling college paper comment boards.

      • another guest

        Mere disagreement with your particular views does NOT constitute “trolling”.

    • Guest

      Some subject to the additional taxes may leave but overall the numbers won’t be significant since the areas of California where the majority of the 1% population reside are blessed with a far more desirable climate than what is offered in other states,.

      “For example, one of the plan’s key components “reaffirmed California’s prior commitment to the principle of tuition-free education to residents of the State,” according to the university. The state has long since
      abandoned that element.”

      The issue is that California had a prior commitment to a tuition free education for all state resident students but never had a commitment to paying the living expenses for any Cal Grant A recipient. A Cal Grant A recipient was expected to attend the nearest UC or CSU and live at home or choose not to live at home and work his way through the university or take out loans. The desire of University administrators to pay the living expenses of Cal Grant recipients regardless of its devastating effect on middle class student access to a UC education is at the heart of the massive tuition increases and the inability of middle class students to afford a UC education. The state has not cut UC per student funding; it has been reallocated from subsidizing the tuition of any state resident to subsidizing the tuition of Cal Grant recipients, paying not only their full tuition but also their living expenses with students not eligible for Cal Grant contributing thousands per year to help subsidize the living expenses of Cal Grant recipients.

      • libsrclowns

        The 1% are highly mobile. Keep taxing and regulating and you will find out.

        Remember, we can afford good tax lawyers.

  • I_h8_disqus

    The discussion needs to move past students and regents. The discussion now needs to move forward to the alumni. Cal has been able to get help from the alumni to fund the stadium and to fund almost $3 billion for the university. It is time to stop ridiculing and attacking our wealthy and influential alums. They are the only ones who will actually be able to influence the legislature and governor to fund the UC to the levels that we need. It is time for us to recognize that the UC 1% can be our allies instead of our enemies. We should look to our fundraising groups, and see about them taking on a new role. A role where they now use their abilities to coordinate the lobbying of the legislature. If they can get large amounts of money from the alumns, then they should be able to now get influence from the alums.