Illustration by Caetano Santos
Illustration by Caetano Santos

After enduring five years of steady cuts in state funding, the University of California system is at last receiving some good news.

Last Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown released the state’s annual budget plan, which for the first time since 2007 did not project California running a deficit. Combined with the revenue raised by Proposition 30, Brown’s budget will provide $250 million in additional funding next year for the UCs.

The UC regents have cautiously estimated that there will be no need for a tuition hike between 2013–14. One member of the State Assembly characterized this fiscal largesse as an olive branch extended by the government to the UC system to repair a relationship marred for years by mutual enmity.

As far as peace offerings go, this is a step in the right direction. But Brown should not use this as leverage to micromanage UC affairs.

At the same press conference he announced the budget, Brown criticized the UC system for its rising tuition costs and increasing expenditures. Although his plan is still pending discussion with the UC regents, who have the final say in changes to the university system, one of Brown’s early proposals is to increase massive open online courses (MOOCs) at UC’s as part of a joint goal for reducing the cost of education while boosting graduation rates. His watchword for the UCs? “Deploy your teaching resources more effectively.”

City on a Hill Press favors affordable and accessible education for Californians, but Brown’s anemic plan is not the answer to this problem, and his attitude toward the UCs is disappointing. The UC system has lost $1 billion in state funding over the last five years, with tuitions rising by $7,000 during the same period. The money Brown did allocate for state universities fell tens of millions short of what the UCs requested. Although online courses are a possible solution to expanding access to impacted classes, MOOCs represent an experimental education model whose efficacy as a teaching tool remains to be seen.

Education has been struggling in California for decades, and the last few years have been especially horrendous for students. Brown knows this, it’s why he campaigned so hard for Proposition 30. It’s why he appeared last November in the Quarry Plaza, urging UCSC students to turn out and vote for their future. Thanks in a large part to his efforts, the price of higher education in California has temporarily stopped climbing.

But stopping the hikes is not enough. The only way to make high-quality education accessible to more Californians is to lower tuition. Citizens of the Golden State have already shown their willingness to lend a hand to students by passing Proposition 30. Even Republicans in the state legislature have expressed concern over the price of education, proposing legislation that would freeze tuition for up to seven years.

Howard Jarvis’ shadow is slowly lifting from California. For the first time in a long time, we have a chance to restore higher education in the state. We ask Gov. Brown to not snap his olive branch in half.