Last week the University of California Board of Regents voted 19-2 to cut this fall’s freshman enrollment by 2,300 students, a move that will likely be as ineffective as it is unfair.
The decision will make it more difficult for 2,300 of today’s high school seniors to get into a campus of their choice in an already record-breaking admissions year. More students will be deferred to UC Merced, even without applying there, apparently in hope that they will decline the offer and go outside the UC system.
Pushing out these 2,300 students will save the UC system $20 million next year – a paltry 0.1 percent of the $19 billion budget.
The savings amounts to merely a drop in the bucket of the overall budget but will drastically change the lives of 2,300 students who’ve worked hard to get into an established UC campus like so many before them. With the California State University system experiencing even more dramatic cuts, these students are ending up with fewer and fewer options through no fault of their own.
While the regents‘ decision was unfortunate, the fault ultimately lies with the California state government – both past and present. California politicians have shown over the last 20 years that they don’t consider higher education a priority, despite their ostentatious displays of outrage during campaign cycles. Since 1990, state spending per student, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by 40 percent. This is unacceptable in a state that just one generation earlier promised its people a world class, tuition-free education in the 1960 Master Plan for California Higher Education.
State spending on education – especially higher education – is an investment in the future. An investment that so far in California has seen initial returns such as a booming entrepreneurial sector and cutting edge advances in research, not to mention the Silicon Valley to a large extent. Furthermore, there are currently around 1.5 million living UC alumni, 75 percent of whom reside and pay taxes in California.
When the state shirks its commitment to educate its people, it does so at its own peril. California needs to reinvest in its future and keep the promise it made to its people 50 years ago.