It’s getting to be like clockwork – another year, another wave of student fee increases. In these troubled economic times, this year’s increase could be over $600 annually per student if the government doesn’t close the funding gap.
There has to be a limit to this cycle of increases. The UC system – arguably the premier public higher education system in the world – is becoming increasingly privatized every year. Since 1990, the state of California’s per-student spending on UC education has steadily fallen from $15,860 to $9,560, adjusted for inflation and growth. For a system founded with the underlying belief that the availability of higher education should be based on merit and not financial means, this erosion of state support is potentially lethal.
In addition to possibly raising fees, the UC regents are considering cutting 10,000 freshman enrollments. This action would be unfair to the thousands of high school students currently working towards a UC education. Furthermore, as the CSU system has been forced to adopt similar enrollment cuts, many of these students would be denied admission to any four-year institution – thus placing more strain on California’s already struggling community colleges.
California’s priorities are greatly out of line. The state spends more on its prison system than on the UC, CSU and community college systems combined. A government that spends more money imprisoning its citizens than educating them is in obvious need of reevaluation.
If California won’t shift spending to something as important as higher education, then it’s time for someone to say what no one running for political office will – we need to raise taxes. A good education is one of the most vital investments a government can make in its citizens and will in the long-term benefit society as a whole. Over the past several years that idea has been largely ignored in favor of an easier budget process.
A marginal tax increase is a relatively small price to pay for continuing the tradition of quality, affordable higher education that sets California apart.