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Friday, November 20, 2009

Student Tuition Hikes Avoidable

Long Beach, Fresno, Los Angeles, Berkley, Pomona, were just a few of the cities where students walked out of classes and protested tuition hikes in the UC and Cal State systems. Students, professors and staff grabbed signs and chanted outside Chancellor's offices and Trustee meetings demanding more money for education in California. The students don't think it is right that in the State's budget there is less money for the UC/Cal State campuses and because Sacramento is providing less funding for operations students will have to pay higher fees for their classes and other activities. Professors and staff protested the tuition hikes and their furloughs which cut their pay. Everyone wants more money from Sacramento.


Hearing about, reading about and watching these protests I did not know whether to be bored or amused by the irony involved. The campuses of our fine universities and colleges in California are not sprinkled with they are laden with unions that blindly support the Democratic status quo in our Assembly and Legislature, classes are led by an overwhelming majority of professors who make Nancy Pelosi and State Senator Alan Lowenthal look like Sarah Palin and John McCain by political comparison. Eight years of trying to indoctrinate students against George Bush and Republicans has done its job in California. Generations of students have protested against conservative speakers on campus, Republican politicians and revelled in their Che Guevera and Mao t-shirts. They have worked for, voted for and enabled an Assembly and Senate in Sacramento that is overwhelmingly Democrat and overwhelmingly fiscally liberal.

They are protesting the consequences of their own political activity, support and ballots, and they are wasting their time and energy on these protests.

Why are they wasting time and energy? Not atypical of many lessons taught on campuses that cover theory but not reality, the protests are directed at the wrong portions of the education community. By rallying around the offices of Chancellors, Presidents, Trustees the protesters are chanting at those who have no choices in their budget decisions at this point. Their operating funds are tied up by Sacramento cutting their budgets. It is very de rigueur to protest the salaries of Administrators, but why not go after the tenured salaries of professors, many of whom expend considerably less effort for more many than many in the Administration buildings? But I'm off point. The energy is directed at on campus administrators and off campus Trustees after the funds have already been cut by Sacramento--what are they to do? Sure there could be better budgeting within the systems, but with the cuts from Sacramento their choices are very limited and most have minimal impact compared to fee hikes.

Instead of protesting on campus the students, who were supposed to have been brought into political action in our last election, should understand the power they have. No where is there a greater concentration of political power than on a university campus. Ten, fifteen, twenty thousand potential voters all with a common purpose? Those numbers win elections, but only if exercised.

There is no quick solution for the current generation of students on the campuses of California's community and state colleges and universities. They will face more cuts in classes and services and increases in fees and tuition for the next several years as California's budget continues to deteriorate. Already the state is twenty-one billion dollars in the whole for the coming year, and nothing is being done to correct it. Being the fiscal geniuses they are the Democrats in Sacramento are blaming the deficits on voters for rejecting the tax propositions 1A-E and refusing to accept their decade of increasing spending as the reason. With their mindset we are no closer to solving our budget crisis today than we were a year ago, or two years ago. So out of touch are our elected "representatives" that they celebrated a water usage bill that will ask the voters to vote for yet another bond of several billion dollars adding more interest expense to the budget.

The student protests bore me because I know that they have no effect and I know that they are essentially hollow protests made for show. A small group of students and professors with the assistance of on campus union leaders have coerced huge crowds to show up to demonstrate against people who have no impact on their issue. They are made to show the Democrats who control the budget process that they can impact votes so they better listen up and payback some of that support. Look for better contracts soon for the bargaining units on the campuses (see prison guards, SEIU, etc).

If the students, the ones impacted by the loss in classes and education opportunities, the ones forced to take out more and bigger loans to pay the inflated costs of their education, the ones shelling out more money for tuition and activities fees, if they are serious they can do something about the situation. With their votes in 2010 these students can alter the face of politics in California and create a long term path to correct our politicians spending and budgeting systems. As a voting block they can single handedly change California from a tax and spend state that steals money from education to payback state and public workers for their support in elections to a state that has long term budget plans, reduces the impact and influence of unions and brings control back to the voter.

First they need to vote against any incumbent on any ballot that has voted for any of the past four budgets in Sacramento--this will take some research but that is what students do.

Second they need to support the Citizens for California Reform initiative for a part-time Legislature.

If the students truly want to have an impact on their future and the education of future generations, they need to look beyond the targets laid easily in front of them for their protests and find the root cause of the problems they are facing. It all starts with a primary election and then a general election. If they are citizens of California they have the ability to shape and impact their future and the future of our State. But for it to be effective they need to use the analytical tools and critical thinking they are supposed to be learning on their campuses and not just blindly follow those who wish to lead them into supporting the status quo.

Or they can continue to carry their signs and make empty protests against those who have not created nor will perpetuate the budget problems that impact them. Unless they exercise their political power the students might as well get used to hikes in fees (taxes) and reductions in services from our State government.

Hikes in fees are avoidable but only if the students show they are as smart with their ballots and political acumen as they were on their SATs.


poolman said...

i am just amazed at the sense of entitlement kids have.

Bob Schilling said...

OK, this is going to be interesting...

I agree with you that the student protests are annoying, self-centered, and ultimately futile. They make good news fodder but don't do much else.

I agree with you that our colleges and universities are, to put it mildly, badly run, and I suspect that they do not use their resources wisely. I think the California University system might benefit from the graduate version of Charter Schools, which appear to me to be both operationally effective and financially responsible.

At times, it appears to me that some academicians have deceived themselves into thinking that they are in some indefinable way better than us dirty-fingered business types, and this from people who would go broke running a lemonade stand in Death Valley.

I DON'T think we should have a part time legislature. California is -- or at least was -- the 6th largest economy in the world. We have a population that is probably approaching 40 million people. We need a full-time legislative body.

What we also need is a legislature that can act. Many of our current problems stem from the paralysis of the legislature, such that it has a very difficult time actually doing anything. If that were the case now, the legislature would have raised taxes -- and we would be having a spirited debate about it. What we would not have is a state that is rapidly descending into gridlock and financial disaster.

We do need a governor who has real power to hire and fire key state policy makers. The governor also needs to have a stronger hand in making and managing the budget.

Finally, we need to change the initiative process in ways that prevent special interests from effectively purchasing space on the ballot for their pet projects, many of which have proven at best ill-conceived. That goes for the "liberal" propositions to demand a percentage of state revenues for special interest funding, as well as conservative "wedge issues" designed to get out their vote.

We don't need our current term limits. We do need effective curbs on conflicts of interest and outright bribery. We do need a redistricting process that will produce a reasonable number of electorates that mirror the overall political makeup of the state. That could - based on experience, will - produce legislators that balance social needs with fiscal prudence, and keep expensive interventions at a minimum.

We can do all of this. If we want to give our children and grandchildren a state that will nurture and support them, we must do this.