Tuesday, December 1, 2009

California Public Higher Education: What's Happening to Students in the California State University System

The article I have linked to here does a good job of explaining some of the main problems facing students in California who are seeking a college degree at an affordable cost though the California State University system, which as the article points out is the largest university system in the U.S., one for which student applications admissions are continuing to grow rapidly.

I hope everyone will remember that though there are genuine financial issues involved, the changes that are happening in California public education are not inevitable but are happening because of specific political decisions. Those who want California's students to have affordable education in the future (and that would certainly include, I hope, those who have benefited from it in the past) can make a difference by supporting education awareness drives and, crucially, by supporting California politicians who believe in the value of public higher education.

Thanks to Lauren Mecucci for pointing the article out to me.


rodney k said...

"...the changes that are happening in California public education are not inevitable but are happening because of specific political decisions."

Hi Mark,

While I'm sure that's true, the huge increase in applicants at every level of the system--UC, Cal State, JC--is a challenge even the most far-sighted administrators would have trouble meeting, don't you think? Especially if the mandate is to keep admissions non-competitive, to let students attend the campus of their choice, and to provide 'remediation' for 50% of the student body, as one of the commenters claims.

I say that convinced that far-sighted administrators ain't what the system's got.

What I'm wondering is if more money for the Cal State system, by itself, is the long-term answer. Not that that's exactly what you're saying, but I'm curious if the system as it was originally constituted is bearing more expectations than it can reasonably hope to meet, funding notwithstanding (though I agree more funding is the vital first step to any reform). Not unlike the health care issue, where yes, lots more money's needed, but so maybe is a whole rethinking of the way we approach the "wellness profession."

I say this as a relatively grateful product of the California experiment in public education, 5th grade through undergrad. Though I don't know it from your side of the trenches, which is why these are really questions more than anything.

mark wallace said...

Rodney, I appreciate these questions.

One of the things about living in a society drenched with corporate-controlled information is that even progressive-minded people can begin to absorb rightist assumptions about the nature of economics. We just hear it too much and it becomes part of the way we think.

In this case, the assumption becomes something along the lines of "we can't afford this expansion of public education"--an assumption based on the idea that public education costs more money than it makes. But in fact the opposite is true, especially in California. While it's true that the state-government does have to fund the CSU system, the system in fact makes a huge amount of money for the state. So it's not simply a good social investment, it's a good economic one. And it's here, see, that rightist ideas get in the way--in this case, the idea that investment in the public good takes away from the economy.

The CSU system has always been expanding--there's more and more demand for the education they offer, and the education has positive benefits, both economic and social, for the state of California. It's a system that in fact is working well.

What's not working is the short term, me first, individual vs. society thinking, with its fraud, waste, corruption, criminality (sometimes) and huge, undeserved bonuses for individuals that actually led to the kind of economic bubble whose collapse is leading to so many problems.

So this is exactly not the time to stop investing in a public education system that has really benefited, and will continue to benefit the state of California, if people will let it.

So continuing to support the CSU is a way to help us get out of real economic trouble in California rather than the reverse.

(part two coming in a moment)

mark wallace said...

(part two)

Many U.S. conservatives are committed right now to the model of privatization that actually impoverishes countries, what we might call the third world model in which a few elite individuals essentially take all the money out of a whole social system. In contrast, of course, are the socialist/capitalist combinations of many European countries whose quality of life, and whose general level of prosperity, the U.S. just can't match, and partly because its privatization model does not in fact make the country richer.

Still, given the fact that corporations and a few individuals in this state make massive profits and give back nothing, quite literally, because of tax laws in the state, the present crisis in California could be immediately eliminated if citizens voted for a $15 increase (perhaps even a temporary one) in their yearly car registration fees--and that would be true even without crucially necessary reform of the corporate financial scheme that is harming the state.

But voters in the state have rejected that in favor of 12% unemployment--and a high school graduating class that in large numbers will have no job to be hired for and no college to enroll in. And when you consider what those people are therefore otherwise going to do (what would you do? drink? take drugs? steal something? be a nice guy and live quietly for years in your mom's basement?), think about how much more it's going to cost to deal with chronic unemployment and all the problems that creates.

As a friend pointed out to me the other day, 5% of the world's population lives in the U.S., and 25% of the world's prison population lives in the U.S.

So I guess it's a question of priorities.

All that said, I don't disagree with your point that the CSU system should be thinking about ways to streamline what it does and how it does it--and in fact on many campuses, including mine, we've been doing things of those kinds. But get this, a real kicker: although it didn't happen in the CSU system, in the midst of all this "crisis," top level administrators in the UC system have voted this year to give themselves a big raise.

So it's not a question of whether public education can be supported; it's a question of whether we value its support up against support for vast unearned corporate bonuses and a top level university administration that takes its orders and ideologies from the same corporate system and behaves in the same way.

William Michaelian said...

Mark, I don’t mean to change the subject, but I just heard from Brian Salchert’s sister. She told me that Brian has asked for help in finding your mailing address, as he would like to write to you and a few other bloggers he admires. His health problems are still making it hard for him to use a computer. If you can get in touch with me, it would be greatly appreciated. My email address is at the bottom of my blog.

Thanks very much.