UC system continues to battle a fiscal crisis

Students held protests at California campuses last fall in light of education cuts.
Students held protests at California campuses last fall in light of education cuts.
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The state's higher education systems are trying to provide students a future amidst a fiscal crisis.

California faces a very tough fiscal situation that has extended to education from the elementary level all the way up to the college and university level.

Last fall students walked out on University of California and California State University campuses across the state to protest fee increases and course availability cuts. Now the UC regents have formed the Commission on the Future to figure out how best to deal with the budget crisis.

Several ideas have been thrown around including the creation of three-year degrees, online courses and many types of annual fee increases.

Nick Roman spoke to Russell Gould, the chairman of the UC Board of regents, on Patt Morrison’s program. Gould attributed most of the issues facing the UC system to the way the state has handled its own fiscal crisis.

“There’s been an erosion in terms of priority of higher education,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s led to substantial fee increases like the 30 percent fee increase that was placed on students this year.”

Gould also added that other priorities, such as the state’s health care woes, have become more pressing to the state legislature than higher education has.

Gould advocated the exploration of all options during such a tight financial time and advocated the kind of change that would keep the UC system a well respected institution.

“It’s clear to me that we need to be a leaner, more focused institution if we’re to survive and still provide the kind of quality education that will drive California’s economy in the future,” he said.

Also joining the conversation was Christopher Edley, Dean of the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School and a panel member of the UC Commission on the Future.

Edley also was upset by the state’s lack of aid for higher education.

“One of the tragedies to me as somebody who just got to the state six years ago is the way the great master plan for California higher education has basically been run through a shredder,” he said.

“Just as the state is becoming more diverse, the commitment to higher education seems to be shrinking.”

Edley also advocated exploring online education.

“We could probably earn a lot of money by providing a UC-quality education online to people around the world who are desperate to get a higher education,” he said. “Then [we could] use the money we make that way to help ensure access and affordability for our traditional on campus offerings.”

The mother of a UC student called in expressing that students currently enrolled in the UC system need help sooner rather than later because they, she said, “are really, really feeling those budget cuts.”

Edley responded by saying that the issues at hand are urgent and that the seriousness of the situation can be seen in other sectors of the economy.

“The pain that our students are facing is pain that people are facing all over California because of this budget crisis.”