Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.
As students at the University of California watch budget cuts shut doors on their classes, the UC is exploring the possibility of spending $5-$6 million to expand online education programs.

Though there are many reasons to oppose the move to offer UC classes online, the most obvious is that we aren’t paying thousands of dollars a year to sit at home and watch a computer screen. A few sentences typed in a chat window isn’t the kind of feedback we need from our professors or the interaction we need with our peers.

A lively online discussion — however enjoyable — cannot replace shouting over that pretentious kid in your section in a discussion about an author’s motivation to have a character wear yellow.

This is the inherent flaw in the online degree plan. Traditional, in-person UC programs aren’t offering just classes — they offer an experience. They offer community, an exchange of ideas; they foster intellectual and personal connections, inside the classroom and inside the dorm room.

The UC says the online pilot program is a response to the increased role technology plays in students’ lives, but like most of the UC’s decisions right now, this one has money as a driving force.

As everyone knows, the money from the state just isn’t there. We need to supplement it somehow, but not by raising tuition again.

The UC’s efforts to search for funding online may be seen as admirable. However, we would prefer to see the UC invest in existing resources — not in surface-level expansion.

The move to online education might mean increased access to classes for non-UC students, and it might raise revenue. However, even the most advanced internet classes will be hard-pressed to offer anything more than a watered-down, cheapened academic and personal experience.

It will be the discount store where the boutique’s slightly damaged products are sold half-price.

California’s Master Plan for Higher Education promises to protect and foster the UC’s reputation as the pinnacle of higher education.

A UC education can’t be convenient. It can’t be easily fit in between your morning run and your dentist appointment. Because convenience isn’t our priority.

Our academic experience is our priority. In-person, human research is our priority.

You can’t bump into your professor at a campus coffee shop and discuss lecture and life online. You can’t have lunch with some kids from your section online. You can’t assist your professor in the lab as a research assistant online.

You can’t get a UC education online.

Our academic experience is three-dimensional, and no amount of live chat or video stream can replace the human experience of being a UC student.