Bill proposes establishment of fourth state university system

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bill introduced to the state Legislature would establish the “New University of California” — a potential fourth segment in California’s higher education system, which currently consists of the UC, the CSU and California’s community colleges.

Introduced by Assemblymember Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, the “New University of California” will not provide any instruction but only grant degrees to students who pass a certain number of examinations, according to a statement released by Wilk.

“It exists for a single purpose: to certify by examination that an individual has acquired the knowledge and skills necessary to compete and succeed in the work force,” read the statement. “It has no tuition, no faculty, and no bureaucracy.”

The creation of the university follows the proliferation of online education programs like Udacity and edX, which provide instruction but not academic credit.

“This bill would allow students to use whatever approach works best for them to obtain the knowledge needed to receive a college education, whether that is online courses, paid courses, or self-directed study,” read the statement.

Students would only be charged a small fee to finance the administration of exams.

“This smaller, more affordable fee makes college education more accessible for California’s students,” read the statement.

The university would have the authority to contract the development of the exams out to other organizations and would be structured similarly to the University of California. It would be managed by a board of 11 trustees and a chancellor.

The bill was introduced to the Legislature in late February and is currently waiting for review by the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.

Student leaders have expressed mixed reactions to the bill.

“Part of my feeling towards this bill is to be cautious about modifying our higher education system in ways that would substantially alter it,” said ASUC Senator and CalSERVE external affairs vice president candidate Nolan Pack. “I think the problem is that, while there may be arguments saying that it is cheaper, it circumvents the problem that we are not currently funding our higher education system to where it should be.”

UC Student Association Organizing and Communications Director Darius Kemp echoed Pack’s concerns.

“We always believe in a progressive conversation to improve higher education and are willing to sit down with any legislators looking to improve the accessibility and affordability of the UC system,” Kemp said. “While we encourage discussion towards any improvement to higher education, we also feel that it’s important that we fix the broken system we have now.”

The UC Office of the President has yet to review the bill and at this point has no comment, according to UC spokesperson Dianne Klein.

Analysis of the bill will occur in late April, with a hearing scheduled shortly thereafter, according to Josh Molina, legislative director for Assemblymember Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, chair of the Committee on Higher Education.

“What we have to do now is invest in public education again,” Pack said. “It might be an unnecessary fix to our higher education problem.”

Contact Sophie Ho at [email protected].