BY HANK REICHMAN
Privatization has failed. But a tuition-free college education in California is possible.
That was the message this morning at a press conference in Berkeley introducing a new policy paper demonstrating how it is entirely feasible to provide today’s students with the same accessible low-cost university experience that California successfully offered its students from the 1960s through the 1990s.
The 30-page report, “The $48 fix: Reclaiming California’s Master Plan for Higher Education,” argues that “the 1960 Master Plan treated education as a public good, provided at low-cost or no-cost to all California students, yielding a wider social and economic benefit. But since 2000, higher education has been treated as a commodity to be sold to consumers for their private gain.” The report shows that
- Between 2001 and 2016, $57 billion (in real dollars) has been withheld from California’s public higher education sector. By 2016, the state was spending 39 percent less per university student than fifteen years before.
- At the same time, the three segments increased student charges dramatically. Tuition and mandatory fees have risen nearly 150 percent at UC and nearly 170 percent at the CSU. They have more than tripled at community colleges.
- Coincident with the state’s privatization experiment, student debt at California’s public universities has exploded. In 2015, more than half of UC and CSU seniors graduated with more than a diploma: they also carried $1.3 billion in student debt. Total debt accumulated by the state’s public university students since 2004: $12 billion.
However, the paper concludes, “There are solutions.
- It is commonly, but mistakenly, presumed that returning to California’s Master Plan for Higher Education would cost too much, putting the best solution out of political reach.
- This presumption has led to policy changes and recommendations for the future which, if adopted, will only speed the deterioration of California’s higher education system.
- The fact is, better options—reasonable, doable and affordable—are available to practical-minded leaders of today. The funding can be found right here in California.”
“The two-decade experiment in privatizing public higher education in California has failed,” says Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco; president of the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA), an AAUP partner organization; and a co-author of the paper. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. The original idea for a publicly funded system is still the best idea, and it can work if we make the commitment.”
Speaking at the press conference were Glantz; Jennifer Eagan, professor of philosophy and public administration at California State University, East Bay, and president of the AAUP-affiliated California Faculty Association (CFA); Ralph Washington, Jr., president, UC Student Association and doctoral student at UC Davis; and Rich Hansen, professor of Mathematics, De Anza College, president, Foothill-DeAnza Faculty Association, and past president, California Community College Independents.
The report, sponsored by the Reclaim California Higher Education coalition, comes on the heels of another recent report by the CFA, “Equity, Interrupted,” which documented how “as the number of students of color has increased, public funding for the CSU has decreased.” That report demonstrated how
- The CSU had over 150,000 MORE students (full-time equivalent) in 2015 than it had in 1985 for a student body increase of 64% over those 30 years.
- But the CSU budget has not grown at the same rate. In fact, the CSU funding from the state actually declined by 2.9% in real dollars over those 30 years.
“This is why 3 out of 4 of our CSU students work more than 20 hours a week.” Professor Eagan told this morning’s press conference. “And this is why in 2015 nearly 42,000 CSU seniors who had student loans carried more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in debt when they graduated. All this is why the call to return to the California Master Plan for Higher Education is so important.”
“It is counterproductive for California to insist that the public good of higher education must be financed by individual students and their families,” Eagan added. “We need to go back to the Master Plan and figure out how we all can support public higher education for the future of the state. We need to talk about long term and sustainable ways to fund higher education in California, and “The 48 Dollar Fix” proposes a concrete, fair, and realistic solution.”
“We often discuss the cost of tuition in a way that implies that education is a commodity. As though we have forgotten that education is a public good,” added Ralph Washington, the UC student association president. “It has intrinsic value that improves society.”
“If we want to invest in the future of our society, we must invest in the future of all its members,” Washington continued. “The best way to do that is through education, and education doesn’t stop at K-12. We need to reclaim the Master Plan for Higher Education.”
In his remarks Professor Hansen pointed out that “since 2000, the promise of a smooth pipeline for students to flow from the community colleges to the CSU or the UC has been diverted.” Although the state has begun to restore funding cuts to the community colleges, Hansen acknowledged, “the faucet remains constricted when these students look to transfer to CSU and UC,. The cost remains prohibitive. The proposal we are discussing here is designed to restore funding to CSU and UC to improve both access and affordability.”
“The $48 fix” has been endorsed by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)—California Conference; AFSCME Local 3299; AFSCME – Union of American Physicians and Dentists; California Community College Independents; California Faculty Association; California Nurses Association; Courage Campaign; California Part Time Faculty Association; California State University Employees Union – SEIU Local 2579; Council of University of California Faculty Associations; Californians United for a Responsible Budget; Faculty Association for California Community Colleges; Student Senate for California Community Colleges; Teamsters Local 2010; United Auto Workers Locals 2865, 4123, 5810; University of California Student Association; University Professional and Technical Employees – CWA Local 9119.
In addition to Glantz, the working group that prepared the report included Hansen; Christopher Newfield, author of The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them, past chair of the UC Systemwide Committee on Planning and Budget, and a Professor of English at UC Santa Barbara; Jonathan Polansky, Principal, Onbeyond LLC; Eric Hays, Executive Director of CUCFA; and Amy Hines-Shaikh, Director of the Reclaim CA Higher Education coalition and the Higher Education Director at University Professional and Technical Employees.
“We are not talking about going to Mars. We are not even talking about doing something that hasn’t been done before,” Professor Glantz said. “The California Master Plan for Higher Education worked for decades. And it is time to put it back in place. When we have raised that idea in Sacramento, it has been dismissed as too expensive. That is wrong. We’ve worked out the numbers and this idea is eminently affordable.”
Tomorrow Professor Glantz, accompanied by UC student leaders, will present the report to the UC Board of Regents. Next week, CFA and others will be urging the CSU Board of Trustees to also address its concerns. Glantz, Eagan, Hansen and I will also introduce “The $48 fix” to educators nationwide in a session at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in San Francisco on Thursday. Also on Thursday representatives of the endorsing groups will be distributing printed copies of the report to members of the California Legislature.
While the report is specific to California, there is good reason to think that similar solutions will be both realistic and affordable in other states, if only the political will can be mustered. California’s Master Plan was for decades a model for the 49 other states. Reclaiming it can and should be a model as well.
The report concludes:
California’s two-decade experiment in privatizing higher education has failed, as it has failed in the rest of the country. Top-quality, accessible and appropriate higher education that affords opportunity to all California students has been replaced with a system that restricts access, costs students more and compromises educational quality. Exploding student debt constricts students’ futures and harms the economy as a whole. It is entirely feasible to reinstate California’s proven success in public higher education. Several reasonable funding options can be mixed and matched to make the costs remarkably low for almost all California families. Our state has the means and the opportunity. Will we recover our political will and vision?
Once again, to access the report go to http://www.reclaimcahighered.org/48dollars
And to watch the January 24, 2017 press conference on Facebook go to https://www.facebook.com/reclaimcahighereducation