Vol. 2, Issue 2, January 13, 2004
Think Difference (Engine).
Perplexing Times

California Budget Cuts Eliminate University System

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a $99.1 billion budget plan Friday and proposed cutting out the state's university system to help pay for it.

Without cuts or higher taxes, California is expected to face a $14 billion deficit by June 30, 2005, the end of the upcoming fiscal year.

Schwarzenegger did not include any new taxes in his budget plan Friday, but in addition to eliminating all state funding for colleges and universities, he requested higher state park fees.

"For the past five years, the politicians have made a mess of California's budget," Schwarzenegger said. "Now it's time to clean it up. And frankly, I think my proposal is actually quite true to the California vision of universal access to higher education."

California has long espoused the principle of near-universal access to higher education. With two distinct state university systems (the California State University and the University of California), as well as a 110-campus community college system, California has tried to guarantee every qualified high school graduate a college education.

"The governor's plan is quite ingenious," said Gerald Falstell, of the conservative group California Renewal. "The premise behind our state's philosophy is that every Californian is entitled to success. Now, success often requires a college degree. Therefore, every Californian is entitled to a college degree. The only problem with the system was the Democrats' insistence on using a huge, bloated university system to accomplish this goal."

Under Schwarzenegger's plan, every high school graduate would receive a baccalaureate degree in the mail in the major of his or her choosing. The costs of printing the diplomas will be covered by a nonrefundable fee charged to the recipients.

"This does solve the problem of our K-12 students not being prepared enough for college," confessed UC Berkeley Professor of Education Daryl Stanley. "And it must be admitted that most professors want nothing to do with students anyway; so allowing them to conduct research without having to teach will be a significant boon to many." The budget plan would not affect funding obtained from sources other than the state, so faculty supported by National Science Foundation grants, for example, could continue to work.

Some social service advocates say the plan actually doesn't go far enough to solve the state's problems.

"It is a good step," said Falstell, "but the fact remains that a doctorate provides more earning power than a baccalaureate. Our citizens will continue to be deprived of an optimal chance to achieve top salaries until everyone gets a Ph.D. in the mail, not just a baccalaureate." The requirement that recipients first graduate from high school is also under discussion.

If legislators approve Schwarzenegger's budget plan, which will be revised in May, the plan would go into effect in September 2004. The governor brushed off concerns expressed by some about the effect his plan might have on the state's skilled workforce, which is particularly important to the health of its high-tech industries.

"As long as everyone has their degree to fall back on, we'll be fine," he said.

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