Pass / Fail | So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Cal State leaders lobby White House for higher education funding, respond to Santorum 'snob' comment

F. King Alexander
F. King Alexander
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Gov. Jerry Brown is back home after lobbying the White House to back off on education regulations — but now, the presidents of California's state universities are sending Washington the opposite message. 

Just hours after Gov. Brown flew out, the state school presidents showed up in Washington asking the White House to force the governor, and the Legislature, to spend more money on higher education.

F. King Alexander, president of Cal State Long Beach, says that state support for public universities is at its lowest point since 1965.

He claims that California needs to understand the difference between spending and investment.

"When we keep putting money in the prisons [...] and we slice higher education in our schools to the bone, I think we need to reexamine exactly where we want to be as a state in the future," said Alexander.

His strategy? Washington should use the power of the purse: threaten to withhold federal dollars to stop California from further cuts in higher education.

Cal State Long Beach's president also weighed in on one of the hot topics this week in the presidential campaign: just who should go to college.

President Barack Obama called on Americans to commit to at least one year of higher education or career training.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum called the president a "snob." Alexander says it’s "absolutely essential that our students have an opportunity to go to college today and finish what they start. They do not have the economic future of the generations of the past if they don’t pursue college and they don’t graduate from college."

He cited the Economist, which asked if Horatio Alger exists in America today. "They said yes, but Horatio Alger has to go to college first."

Alexander says there was a different kind of snobbery after World War II, when veterans were offered the GI Bill to pay for college. One critic in the New York Times said they’d turn the nation’s universities into hobo jungles.