Furthering the End of the California Dream of Affordable and Accessible Higher Education

statecat.pngWe have spent much time on these pages discussing the issues facing UC particularly in recent weeks the massive 32% pay hike, the issue of the furloughs, the issue of accountability, and the issue of the quasi-privatization of the upper tier of California public higher education system.

Garnering less attention are the fee increases and policy shifts affecting the California State University system.  On Tuesday, the California Faculty Association, who represents faculty members of the CSU system, issued a “white paper” chronicling the restructuring of the CSU system that will fundamentally change its mission.

They write:

“What is happening is a “restructuring” of the CSU that goes far beyond “belt-tightening” in hard times and is, in fact, a radical change in the mission of the system. This profound shift in public policy concerning the CSU’s mission is proceeding rapidly with no public debate in any forum—not at the Board of Trustees, not in the legislature, and not with the people of California.”

The site as evidence an “internal memo” written by CSU’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, Benjamin Quillian, dated October 2, 2009.

“The Quillian memo requested campus administrators to detail their plans for significant reductions in the faculty and staff workforce as well as drastic cuts in student enrollment. The Chancellor emphasizes his commitment to reducing the number of students enrolled in the CSU by indicating that any campus exceeding its enrollment target will see its next year’s budget allocation reduced by an amount equal to the revenue generated from that enrollment.”

However, they cite a portion of this memo that suggests that what the Chancellor’s office is planning is a drastic change in scope.

I urge you to think creatively and recognize that tinkering with reductions at the margins will be insufficient. It will be necessary to change radically business processes and service delivery systems so that personnel costs and other expenditures can be reduced significantly on an ongoing basis. Campuses need to collaborate and work together to reduce unnecessary duplications of effort and create synergies to leverage strengths and minimize weaknesses. Twenty-three independent plans will not get the job done. If we expect to continue effectively fulfilling the mission of the CSU, the budget reduction strategies must yield a fundamental transformation of the ways we meet the needs of our students, faculty and staff.

The faculty argue that these policy changes mark a fundamental shift in the nation’s largest higher education system from being a non-competitive admissions university to a competitive one.  The hallmark of the CSU system has been to allow any student to receive a quality and affordable education.

Most alarming from their perspective–and indeed from all of our perspectives–these shifts at CSU are not the result of the changing of the states philosophy to reflect making the campuses more competitive in admissions.  Rather they are driven by the necessity of deep budget cuts in the state.  Budget cuts that have led the university’s leaders to attempt to shrink enrollment at a time of rising demand.

In a release sent out on Tuesday, they cite that CSU campuses have received 419,000 applications to date, a figure that represents a 19 percent increase from a year ago.  These increases are attributed to a a rising high school population and years of increasing competitiveness for the University of California campuses.

Last year, two-thirds of applicants were admitted, but this year that ratio is expected to go down significantly.  Last year, just 6 of the system’s 23 campuses were “impacted” in admissions, already this year that number has doubled to 12 and may still go higher.  Already 14 campuses ceased accepting new applications on November 30, last year that number was just 6.

The “white paper” suggests that one thing that stands out in this massive change

“the utter lack of outrage–or even concern–publicly expressed by CSU administrative leaders in the Chancellor’s office or on the campuses.  That fact alone is really quite stunning and certainly helps explain why the public is not up in arms about what is happening to California’s state universities.”

Further they move beyond this to attempt to frame a new debate:

“In addition to challenging administrators’ managerial language, we must also expose the long-term social effects of the changes they propose. While it appears that each campus will have its own campus-specific plan to “transform” education, the examples being implemented right now make clear that these changes will have an especially negative impact on low-income people and communities of color and raise real questions about the civil rights implications of these actions. In fact, the provision of a broad liberal education for communities that might have no other access is at the heart of the CSU’s mission and at the heart of what is under attack.

We also must understand the pattern of the assault on our public universities in a broader historical and political framework. What is happening to us in the CSU is not new, and it is not unique. As Naomi Klein chronicles in “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” crises of various sorts, from economic crises to natural disasters, have been used around the world for decades to strip down social programs, privatize government, destroy democratic institutions, and create enormous wealth for a tiny group of individuals.”

On these pages, we have spoken too much about cuts to education in our local community and California.   The budget cuts in California have had profound impacts on education at the K-12 level that we have not even begun to recognize.  We may get outraged in our community when they talk about laying off public school teachers or closing a school.  I have covered late night school board meetings jam-packed with angry parents and anxious students. 

Making these cuts all the worse is the fact that we are facing an additional $3.5 million in cuts to our local schools.  We have cut all that we can cut in terms of fat, we have finessed all that we can finesse, this year, what we cut will be all bone and all very painful.

This is not going to be a short term problem that goes away.  We are looking at more billions cut from the state budget which means more billions cut from education–K-12 and higher education.  And there is no end in sight.

The point that needs to be made is that while we get fired up–and rightly so about our local schools–and we get fired up locally because of changes to UC Davis that will impact that students who share our community and the faculty and staff that live in our community–all of these changes of course have direct impact on our community.  However, so do changes to CSU where countless students from our community each year go to CSU for their education whether it is Sacramento State, across the causeway or any of the 22 other campuses.

The economists have suggested that the recession–the longest since the Great Depression–is now over.  That may be. On a national level this was a recession about financial institutions, borrowing and lending practices, home ownership, and other huge and fundamental structural issues.  However, the lasting legacy may be in places like California, where this recession may fundamentally and permanently change the way we educate our children.

Not only are we talking about the short-term impact of budget cuts, but fundamental changes to admissions policies at UC and CSU.  Fundamental changes to who can afford to go to school.  Fundamental changes to who will be able to gain admissions to school.

Estimates have suggested that already we may not have enough college educated youth to run our economy in the future.  Now we are in danger of not only creating a lost generation of California youth, but we are in danger of making that permanent.

Californians do not want to pay more in taxes.  They do not want to change Prop 13.  They do not want to change the way our legislature passes budgets and therefore they do not want to remove structural impediments to real reform and restructure.  If Californians want a great educational system, if they want to restore their great higher educational system, they are going to have to make choices, because unless something fundamentally changes, our education system will the lasting legacy of this recession and not in any good way.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 thoughts on “Furthering the End of the California Dream of Affordable and Accessible Higher Education”

  1. Phil


    Most economists who say this recession is over also quickly add that unemployemnt will stay high for at leat another year and many respected folks think we are in a “new normal” with substantially lower growth rates (2%) than we are used to.

    The CSU faces a number of problems. First, the administration of the CSU is awful and has long been hostile not only to CSU faculty but to many campuses.

    Enrollments will fall at the CSU next year which is tragic. Many CSU faculty, including me, have reluctantly concluded that tuition must go up, but as in recent increases, some of the increases should be targeted towards financial aid.

    I think its inevitable that “productivity” will be increased through larger classes, more adjunct faculty (who are much cheaper) and heavier teaching loads. The CSU was originally set up for small classes and most campuses have a shortage of large lecture halls. The boom of the 2000s led to a hiring spree by many campuses, who overdid it a bit, though new faculty were desperately needed.

    THe CFA, of which I am a very reluctant member, has shown absolutely no insight into these issues and has merely reacted to the CSU administration (which is admittedly incompetent).

    Next year will be far worse for the CSU as most expect that the furloughs will not continue, meaning further cutbacks. College enrollments often increase in economic downturns and the CSU is now shutting its doors. This is a shame. More than enough blame to go around.

    The CSU has received very litttle attention compared to the UCs but the issue is just as important.

  2. Rich Rifkin

    [b]Phil:[/b] [i]”Most economists who say this recession is over also quickly add that unemployemnt will stay high for at leat another year …”[/i]

    I interviewed former chair of the UC Davis Economics Department Steven Sheffrin earlier this year. This is what he told me: [quote] “Before we get (national) unemployment back down to 6 percent, I think we’re talking three years. We’re talking three years of a slack economy.” [/quote] I’m not sure if he would now revise that. However, U.S. unemployment (9.5%) is much higher now than it was in July when I spoke with Prof. Sheffrin. And California unemployment (12.3% ([url]http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=usunemployment&met=unemployment_rate&tdim=true&q=unemployment+rate#met=unemployment_rate&idim=state:ST060000&tdim=true[/url])) is the highest I can ever recall*. As such, it might take even more than 3 years for us to get back to full employment.

    *I know it was higher in the 1930s, of course. I mean “recall” in my conscious lifetime.

  3. Phil


    I certainly don’t want to disagree with, Steve Sheffrin (who, sign of the times, is is leaving UC Davis for Tulane). I said it would stay high for at least another year meaning close to double digits.

    This recovery will take a long time and I am not optimistic. You may want to peruse Reinhart and Rogoff’s “This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly” or read or listen to anything by Harvard Econ Historian Neill Ferguson. Both expect another financial crisis involving US debt in ~5 years–we are not in good shape at all, especially in California. Most people still do not get it.

  4. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”or listen to anything by Harvard Econ Historian Neill Ferguson. Both expect another financial crisis involving US debt in ~5 years”[/i]

    Funny you would mention Niall Ferguson, today. I was just reading Foreign Policy’s list of the “100 Top Global Thinkers” and he was on there at No. 56. This is what FP said: [quote]Ferguson has made a career out of challenging sacred cows, both within academia and the popular imagination. A Financial Times columnist and author of the recent The Ascent of Money, among other books, he has worried that the United States’ massive fiscal stimulus plan will cause an inexorable rise in long-term interest rates, crushing the hoped-for economic recovery. [/quote] That is similar to what I wrote in my column last February regarding the Obama stimulus plan. Let me quote myself: [i]”The delusion is that we need a big-spending bill at all. That Keynesian diagnosis for what ails us is entirely, patently and obviously wrong.

    If massive government deficits were the answer to fixing our economy, then we wouldn’t be in this mess today. Even without HR1, the federal deficit this year is projected to be $1.19 trillion. The national debt has increased on average $3.31 billion per day for the last 18 months. Where has that stimulus gotten us?

    GDP declined at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the last three months of 2008, our worst quarter in 26 years. Last week, the Labor Department reported that 4.78 million Americans are claiming unemployment, the most since records began in 1967. The official unemployment rate is 7.7 percent and rising fast.

    President Obama needs to take a step back and think about what is broken in our economy and fix that.

    There is nothing he can do in the short term to solve our indebtedness, but he should know it’s a mistake to increase our liabilities even more. Including the unfunded portion of Social Security and Medicare, government debt is greater than 400 percent of gross domestic product. History is replete with nations that drowned with lesser burdens.”[/i]

    There is more in FP about Niall Ferguson: [quote] He has also been skeptical about the ability of government regulation to fix the economic mess, noting that the crisis began in the banking sector, the most heavily regulated area of the economy. As he said in June, “It took decades to get from the highly regulated economies of the 1970s to the free-wheeling, highly globalized economies of 2007. It takes a lot less time to destroy globalization.… We are already moving very rapidly away from globalization.” [/quote] For what it’s worth, my column quoting Sheffrin foresaw the rapid decline in the dollar and foresees much higher U.S. interest rates and a much lower standard of living in the coming decade, due to our long-term debt and trade deficits.

  5. wdf1

    The beauty of the original GI bill was that it financed higher education for the veteran population that threatened to flood the job market after WWII ended. That program must have contributed some to the economic prosperity of the country in the following decades.

    This would be an exquisite moment to carry out a similar plan, or at least to sustain the previous level of funding to higher education to accommodate the higher enrollments brought on by the bad economy, but we seem to lack the collective will to make that happen.

  6. Don Shor

    The present GI bill is very generous as well. It pays tuition, fees, and housing and even pays for books. My daughter’s college education is not going to cost me a dime. But it is predicated on the principle that these young men and women have given 4 – 5 years (at rather low pay) and often put themselves in harm’s way.

  7. wdf1

    I take your point, Don, and fully agree that a generous GI bill is one of the least things that we (as a society) can offer our veterans.

    I originally commented from the perspective that broader support for accessible education should be one way to bolster a more stable, productive economy in the long term. But it feels like we’re not looking so much at the long term these days.

  8. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]I originally commented from the perspective that broader support for accessible education should be one way to bolster a more stable, productive economy in the long term. [/quote] While I favor generous subsidies for a UC or CSU education, the extent to which we don’t give them enough money pales in comparison to how much we underfund manual arts education for the non-college bound. If our goal is to have “a more stable, productive economy in the long term,” we need to change our approach to education for the half of students who either will never attend any academic program after high school or will never graduate high school at all. Perhaps nothing is more wrong with our general approach to education than the fallacy that every student needs “a high school degree.” Students who won’t go on to college need technical career education which prepares them for the work world. That education needs to be focused on a career field starting in the 8th or 9th grade. Yet our education infrastructure is geared entirely to the benefit of the college-bound, and other than a course here and a program there, we entirely ignore the real needs of those who would most benefit from being trained for real work before they are 18 years old.

  9. wdf1

    Joint hearing in the state legislature today on the state of the California Master Plan for higher education. As reported by NPR’s California Report this morning:


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