UC system hit hardest when we need it most
Right now Arnold Schwarzenegger, unfortunately the governor of California, is taking an ax to the UC System, one of the most prestigious public education institutions in the world and a producer of world problem solvers. Arnold can sell movies, but he sucks at foresight.
In reaction to its $26 billion budget deficit, the Governator cut spending as he promised he would, in part by shrinking the UC budget by 20%, or $813 million. This brings state investment down to $2.4 billion, back to what it was 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, spending on prisons in California, thanks to its Prison Industrial Complex, has doubled in the last decade to $11 billion. It's easier to lock people up than to educate them.
Sure, education is the cornerstone of democracy, the great equalizer, but it always seems to get cut first. That's especially true when you have a governor with more nannies for his four children then first-hand knowledge of Californians' dependence on their public schools.
If you're a California native, like I am, and have gone to a UC, then you know that public schools are what we all do, while private schools are the exotic option. We're very lucky for this. Arnold's thoughtless move threatens to reverse this way of life.
"The UC model -- providing universal access to a top-notch, low-cost education and research of the highest caliber -- continues to be studied around the globe among those who would emulate its success. And yet, this model has been increasingly abandoned at home by a state government responsible for its core funding," Richard Blum, former-chair of the UC Regents, current chair Russell Gould, vice chair Sherry Lansing, and UC President Mark Yudof wrote in a July 9 letter to UC alumni and supporters.
Of course it fell on the state's deaf ears, because who would care about a system that produced 55 Nobel Prize winners? Those prizes were awarded to solutions for and understanding of real world problems, which we could really use a lot of right now. We chose the moon, a quest fueled by competition with the Soviets. Now let's choose education, as a way to get us out of our current messes and pave the way for a sustainable future.
That's nice in theory, but the reality is that as the student population grows, resources for the UC System are shrinking, threatening to create a brain drain of top talent to the Ivy Leagues (boo!), wiping out lecturers (who were already in danger when I was in school because of budget woes), reducing library hours and other student services, significantly cutting faculty recruitment to further exasperate a growing problem
"Our student-faculty ratio is so high that students may not be able to graduate on time," UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox told Time. The slimming resources cannot keep up with the exponential growth.
Maybe the best education any of us can get is to buy a Rosetta Stone and learn Mandarin or Hindi.