Escuela, Política

What once was

Earlier today, the Regents of the University of California approved a 32% fee increase for UC students. Students are once again being asked to make up for the investment from the state which has declined drastically from the goals stated in the Master Plan. I wasn’t surprised that the fee increase was improved, the amount did surprise me. The most recent increases starting in 2003 were usually between 8-10% (not considering the professional students, e.g., law students).

Students protested outside the Regents meeting. Loud. They set up a tent city and even ocuppied a campus building. I didn’t show up to the meeting or protests, but am in solidarity with the students sitting in and disrupting the meeting.

Instead, I did the nerd thing when it comes to fee increases and re-read the Master Plan (1960), or as we higher education scholars like to call it, the Bible:

The Survey Team believes that the traditional policy of nearly a century of tuition-free higher education is in the best interests of the state and should be continued. The team noted with interest an address given in May, 1958, by President James L. Morrill of the University of Minnesota, who commented as follows on the desire of some organizations and individuals to raise tuition and fees to meet the full operating costs of public institutions of higher education:

This notion is, of course, an incomprehensible repudiation of the whole philosophy of a successful democracy premised upon an educated citizenry. It negates the whole concept of wide-spread educational opportunity made possible by the state university idea. It conceives college training as a personal investment for profit instead of a social investment.

No realistic and unrealizable counter-proposal for some vast new resource for scholarship aid and loans can compensate for a betrayal of the “American Dream” of equal opportunity to which our colleges and universities, both private and public, have been generously and far-sightedly committed. But the proposal persists as some kind of panacea, some kind of release from responsibility from the pocketbook burdens of the cherished American idea and tradition.

It is an incredible proposal to turn back from the world-envied American accomplishment of more than a century.

Although the Survey Team endorses tuition-free education, nevertheless, it believes that students should assume greater responsibility for financing their education by paying fees sufficient to cover the operating costs of services not directly related to instruction. Such services would include laboratory fees, health, intercollegiate athletics, and student activities. Moreover, the team believes that ancillary services such as housing, feeding, and parking, should be entirely self-supporting. (p. 173)


5 thoughts on “What once was

  1. Thanks for the post, prima. Folks were citing the Master Plan and was confused by the reference. As it turns out, the girl who lives above my apartment organized the tent city event. It’s getting pretty hectic over here in Nor. Cal.

  2. I’ve often said in political discussions with friends that the real debate between conservatives and liberals is not whether the poor deserve government assistance, it is whether the rich deserve government assistance. Some Republicans here and there may disagree with giving government assistance to the poor in education and even health care, but they are few and far between. The overwhelmingly consensus among Republicans is that the rich, or in general those who can afford it, should pay for services themselves – not the government, through taxation of people who are often times far poorer. Liberals are often in direct opposition, arguing that certain goods should be provided to the rich as well. In other words, ask yourself this question: Should Warren Buffett’s healthcare or education be paid for by government tax revenue? If you answer in the affirmative, you are liberal in political orientation, if you answer in the negative, you are conservative. Everything else is degrees, moderate or radical – but fundamentally, that is the dividing line.

    So what would happen if the United States made education free? I could think of only two possibilities: Option A and Option B. Option A being that public schools would then become (over time, of course) subject to political forces and restrictions, getting more funding in certain administrations, less in others, used for political favors, and an overall significant drop in public education quality. Just look at what free education has done to our public schools – especially in their interaction with the poorest citizens. Is that a model we should follow?

    Option B is the opposite side of the spectrum (and significantly less likely). Basically public Universities capture enough political favor to increase their funding, political clout, and academic influence. But then who would be paying and who would be gaining? Given the known fact that state taxes tend to be regressive and top public University attendance is largely a benefit for the well off, this option would result in a largely lower middle class paying for the education of the upper middle class and upper class. In other words, the poor paying for the rich to become richer – resulting in larger income inequality.

    Sure, some of that free money will ‘trickle down’ to poor students. But even then it’s a small minority that attend college. And of that small minority, a significant portion of those students don’t finish college. And of those that do, another significant portion take majors that get them nowhere. Coming out of UCLA with just a bachelors degree in Chicano Studies, for example, prepares you for a life of…McDonald’s service. All of this, while the upper middle class is largely concentrated in professions that will greatly increase their wealth later in life – doctors, lawyers, engineers – resulting in a huge return for their tax dollars.

    So when you compare the winners to the losers…and factor in admittance rate, graduation rate, and life prospects after college of the poor, and who would end up paying the taxes to fund these Universities, you get a far different picture. Overall the Warren Buffett’s of the world would be very happy, but the Jose’s and Maria’s would be screwed over.

    My stand is obvious: I take the typical conservative/libertarian position: “So California’s tuition increase is a step in the right direction; its universities should mimic elite private universities by setting a high official tuition rate, while discounting that rate for those of limited means. Better yet, California should simply privatize the entire university system.”

  3. ERH,
    It’s interesting how much the state invested in public programs and services when the state was a lot more white. Now that it’s become much more diverse, they’re rolling back on those programs.

    Anytime, primo. Sometimes I can get all egghead when it comes to these things.

    I should start limiting your comments to 200 words.

  4. I really like your blog and there are some interesting points made. There are so many sites out there which are badly presented that it’s a pleasant suprise to find a good one.

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