Calibankruptcy is Enfeebling Its University System

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 8/14/2009 10:36:00 AM
Think of the US 'economy' as a marriage of Calibankruptcy and Government Motors blown up to national scale: it is a combination of hemorrhaging public finances partly stemming from unlimited desire to prop up money losers like airlines, carmakers, and casino capitalists. You can believe that there will be collateral damage from this exercise in self-destruction. While the abovementioned episodes have received tons and tons of coverage, there is a recent article that I bookmarked from the LA Times that oddly received basically none since my social bookmarking account indicates no one else has bookmarked it. Most likely, it reflects another vice of America in zero long-term thinking since its future implications are...further Calibankruptcy and Government Motors.

As you may have surmised from the graphic, today's feature concerns California's university system. This system has long been the envy of other states and indeed the world as, in theory, any Californian student with enough dedication could in time attend one of the world's finest universities at a reasonable cost. For instance, three of my uncles--all brothers--completed their college degrees at UC Berkeley. Now, however, financial pressures are endangering the Californian university system--one of the last remaining vestiges of the Californian success story. In particular, it is the California State institutions that are having a rough time of it since they get most of their funding from Sacramento. Contrary to what the article says, however, I don't think the University of California system is much better insulated even if it draws more of its money from grants and the like. After all, a significant amount of grant money comes from an organization even more bankrupt than the state of California known as the US federal government. That is, megadeficit spending will need to give way to the novel concept of "revenue generation" from both Cali and Sammy somewhere down the line.

In the meantime, the idea of an affordable education at a UC institution is rapidly going the way of the dodo as fees spiral for students circa 2009. Like those foreign nuisances who 'stole American jobs' in Silicon Valley now being chased away by protectionist-isolationist elected officials, the California university system is now being starved of funds. So--you guessed it--this is another indicator of how America has seen its better days. If there is a more surefire way of going on the road to hell than dismantling your educational system, then I sure would like to know:
California's higher education system, created to offer the opportunity for advancement to any resident, rich or poor, has seen hard times before. But the deep cuts imposed by the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this year are raising the question of whether the University of California, the California State University system and the nation's largest community college network can maintain their reputations for quality, or whether a public higher educational system that has been lauded as the world's finest may be in serious decline.

"This notion of the California dream, the idea that every adult could go to college, we've been hacking away at that during every recession for the past 25 years, and this year may well be it," said Patrick M. Callan, president of the San Jose-based National Center for Public Policy and Education. "We're coming out of this really tarnished." The governor and legislative leaders acknowledge that the cuts will be devastating, but say they have no choice.

Already, campuses from Humboldt to San Diego are raising fees, shedding courses, slashing enrollment, and compelling faculty and staff to take unpaid furlough days. Class sizes are up, library hours are down, and long-held dreams for new programs and schools are on hold...

The state's college and university systems, which educate 2.3 million students annually, have roots in California's early days, but their modern history begins in 1960, when the educational plan was approved. It called for all state residents to have access to a tuition-free, public higher education, and outlined the mission of the three levels of colleges.

The higher education system has been credited with helping to shape and nurture California's economy and draw striving migrants from around the world. "It had a magnet effect here for people who had ambitions for their children, that they could come to a place with good and virtually free public education all the way through college," said Richard White, an American history professor at Stanford University.
And the money drought goes on:
So how bad is it? According to the Department of Finance, the state is expected to spend about $8.7 billion in general revenue funds on UC, Cal State and the community colleges in the coming fiscal year. That would be a 17% drop from two years ago, the department reported. Federal stimulus money will offset some of that, but there remains much uncertainty about the level of funding from Washington, and how long it will last.

UC's state general revenue fund budget of $2.6 billion will be 20% less than it was two years ago. Cal State is seeing a similar percentage drop to about $2.3 billion.
There's also ill will being created over suggestions that UC is firing talented researchers to draw attention to its plight:
Critics of the UC administration contend that UC is purposefully aiming the cuts at undergraduates to increase political pressure, and should instead tap other income sources, including endowments and research grants.

"I think it's a really dangerous game and the students are already going to suffer," said Bob Samuels, a UCLA lecturer who is president of UC's American Federation of Teachers union. This week, Samuels was among 67 UCLA lecturers who received warnings that they might face layoffs next year. Several analysts said they expect raids on UC's blue-chip faculty, many of whom face up to 10% salary cuts.
The road to hell is devoid of human capital.