California’s college and university system has long served as a model for the rest of the country in producing capable, educated young people at a cost that was largely affordable for the middle class. However, the 50 year old “Master Plan for Higher Education” is sagging under the weight of budget cuts and rising tuition.
Under the plan, California created a three tiered system anchored by the University of California, a conglomerate of elite universities designed to provide an exceptional undergraduate and graduate level education for the top 12.5% of the state’s students. Additionally, the California State University (CSU) complex was designed to educate the states top third of high school graduates. Everyone else wishing to continue their education could attend one of the many low cost community colleges throughout the state.
However, the recent economic downturn and resulting budget crisis has jeopardized the entire higher education system in California. While the state continues to spend significant resources on entitlements and social programs, many students are scrambling to find a way to attend college.
The UC Board of Regents recently raised tuition to more than $10,000, which is largely unaffordable for many California families. Higher fees have also been imposed on many professional schools, threatening their ability to produce the high income professionals many of California’s businesses rely on to grow and prosper and the state needs for a robust tax base.
CSU recently reported that it will be forced to turn away an expected 45,000 eligible students next year due to funding issues. The community college system while still affordable, is struggling to accommodate the significant increase in enrollment. Students often find themselves unable to enroll in any classes due to extreme overcrowding and courses being eliminated.
The reasons for the dire situation are complex and multi faceted. Universities have raised tuition by an average of 5% after inflation throughout the last decade, endeavoring to build world class buildings and research facilities, develop premier academic staffs, fund competitive sports teams and expensive marketing campaigns. Additionally, both CSU and UC have provided extremely generous perks and unnecessary compensation packages for administrators.
The end result of a higher educational system that is unable to fill the needs of business and society are obvious. California companies that are unable to attract the talent they need to fill their available jobs will begin to look at relocation options, particularly considering the state’s burdensome tax structure. As a result, the tax base will suffer further, potentially sending the budget into a perpetual downward spiral resulting in even further cuts in education.
While the Board of Regents for both universities scramble to implement a 30% tuition increase by 2010 to cover the estimated 1.4 billion deficit, the 7.7 billion spent annually to educate the children of California’s illegal aliens continues to be ignored.
While American citizens see their own children unable to afford a college education, federal and state governments continue to hide behind the archaic 1982 Plyler Vs. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of every child to a public education regardless of immigration status. As college tuitions continue to rise, courses will be eliminated and students will be forced into vocations and lower paying jobs. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how long this intolerable situation is allowed to continue.
A simple legislative initiative in Congress could rectify the educational inequity and immediately solve the budget crisis in numerous states. However, now that government mandated health care has been forced on the American public, Congress plans to turn its attention to amnesty for illegal aliens instead.