Well, this is it. After two years of recklessly spilling my ideas, beliefs and opinions all over the Tuesday edition of The California Aggie, I now find myself desperately trying to tie them all together for what will be my final statement to the UC Davis student population.
Some people might look at my last 60 or so columns and find inconsistencies, such as, “How can you support limited government intervention, and at the same time demand state and federal funding for higher education?” The answer to this question is simple, and if you really think about, probably the closest thing to a central theme you’re likely to find in any of my writing.
When it really comes down to it, state funding for the UC system is not a symptom of a welfare state, nor does it demonstrate some attitude of entitlement toward education. The reason I so avidly demand state funding for our higher education system in California is because it’s an investment that I believe our state is in no position to pass up.
In 2005, a pair of UC Berkeley professors found that for every dollar of state funding the UC system received, the state of California gained a net return of $3. In a time when our state is facing a $24.3 billion deficit, how can we honestly ignore such an outstanding investment opportunity?
Regardless of any logical answer to the above question, the fact is that our elected and appointed officials in state government continue to do just that – ignore the opportunity present in the UC system.
When I started writing this column two years ago, the economic climate was drastically different. There was no frantic talk of a global recession, no government bailouts and no news stories of industrial powers suddenly declaring bankruptcy. However, one thing that hasn’t changed much is our state legislature’s apathetic attitude toward the UC system.
Every spring, like clockwork, a new budget would reveal a decline in state funding for higher education, forcing student fees to go up once again.
For years, students were told that a tight budget had forced the hand of whoever was responsible, and that we would all need to make sacrifices for the time being. Now, as I’m preparing to graduate in only a matter of days, I can see that tough times and a need for sacrifice have nothing to do with the poor treatment extended to California students.
Earlier this quarter, as the UC Regents voted to approve the “undesirable” option of raising student fees by 9.3 percent, they fully understood that this year’s increase would not be the last. Unfortunately for all of us, they also knew this last year, and the year before that, but they didn’t let it stop them from taking the easy way out rather than working toward a permanent solution to the ever-present funding problem.
Now, as the economy suffers from recession, the problem has grown more severe. Student fees continue to go up and state funding continues to go down, but now our elected officials are considering options that would have been considered ludicrous only a few years ago. In a time where college is getting more expensive by the day, Governor Schwarzenegger has suggested doing away with $173 million in financial aid by cutting the Cal Grant program – another example of California turning its back on an investment in education.
In writing this column, I had hoped to highlight these issues for the rest of the UC Davis campus, understanding that without a knowledgeable and informed student body, positive change will never come to the UC system. What we need right now are not the loud and abrasive voices typical of student demonstrations on this issue, but voices that truly understand the disservice that our state is doing itself by neglecting its system of higher education.
Finally, I would like to thank each and every one of you who has sat down and read one of my columns these past two years. I sincerely hope that this experience has been as educational and enjoyable for you as it has been for me.
If JAMES NOONAN could spend another year writing for The Aggie, he would. Unfortunately, the regents have robbed him blind for the last four years and it’s time for him to move on to the “real world.” Wish him the best at email@example.com.