This looming threat, though a speculative comment made by Gov. Jerry Brown in a speech last week, becomes more and more of a potential reality for UC students and Californians with each day that passes and an all-cuts budget remains the likely option for Brown to sign off on.
Brown just traveled to Riverside to rally Californians into pressuring four state legislature Republicans to allow tax extensions to be on a June ballot, and thus allow Californians to vote on the matter. If the extensions do not make it on the ballot, or if Californians do not vote for them, the extensions will expire and the UC will likely face a $1 billion cut to its operating budget.
Such a cut, Brown speculated, would mean that students in the UC may see a twofold rise in their tuition. Brown also mentioned campus closures as a potential way of coping, if the tax extensions are not enacted.
The behavior of the Republicans in the legislature is abhorrent. They are not doing their job, which is to let the people of California vote.
The fact that doubled tuition is even a possibility for the UC system is absurd. Such a move would have devastating impacts. It is understandable that cuts need to be made to every facet of the state — and as hard as it is to face, even to the UC system — but to make this kind of cut would be detrimental and extremely shortsighted. Cutting $1 billion from the UC would not be just a cut. It would be the elimination of the public institution.
For students in the UC system and families supporting their children in the system, this would not be an issue of needing to save more, work more or taking out more loans — it would force many students to drop out. If enacted, students in the UC system would be trapped into paying private school tuition, despite the fact that they enrolled at a public institution.
Brown’s statement that closing some campuses would be another possible solution is also shortsighted, for a number of reasons. Closing down any UC campus would make entrance into the UC system that much more difficult, flooding more students into state universities and community colleges — schools that are also receiving immense cuts. This would not be a solution to anything. It would be deflection, moving the problem to another part of the state’s budget.
Furthermore, any closure of a UC campus would mean thousands of employees without jobs. A closure to universities of that size would overwhelm the state with more unemployment.
Either move — closure of some UC campuses or doubling tuition — violates the objectives that this beautiful system was founded on: affordability, accessibility and the advancement of knowledge. While each of these facets of the UC have been jeopardized in the past few years as dramatic raises in student fees and tuition, increases in class sizes, and the reduction in number of teaching assistants have been implemented, these two moves would be a complete affront to the more than century-old system.
There has been a disillusionment with placing blame for the absurd climbs in student fees, for the forced furloughs, for the laying off of numerous employees, for the increased class sizes and the decreased accessibility, but blaming will not be a means for saving the UC. We all need to rally the state into providing more funding for higher education and to push the Republicans to let Californians vote. After all, it is our system.
We cannot keep blaming just Yudof, UCOP and the chancellors and looking within the UC for a solution — the fact remains that the state has all but stopped investing in higher education. The solution cannot be found in parading to chancellors’ and vice chancellors’ homes and blaming just the higher-ups in the UC system. The solution must be found in all of us: in our parents, our neighbors, our family friends, in Californians. The disillusionment must end. Everyone contributes to this system, and if we want to save it, we all must take part in that. We must join forces rather than splinter.
If this system is going to be saved, all Californians need to rekindle their sense of ownership and pride for the system that once had international prestige — the UC is all of ours, and Californians need to remember that.
Like one editor’s grandmother said to her husband when she first saw the library at UCSC, “This is ours, we support this, and can you believe that?”
That is the attitude that will save the UC.