University of California students don’t want their tuition to increase. I saw the protests outside the Board of Regents meeting and on my campus, and I heard the students in my classroom explain just what an extra 5 percent might mean to them in terms of work outside of school and in terms of debt. They’re pretty reasonable.
UC President Janet Napolitano says that the state of California doesn’t provide enough money to keep a top university system operating and enroll new students. She says that capacity to increase tuition steadily is needed in order to guard against the deterioration of the university–if the state doesn’t pony up enough money. She’s right too.
Governor Jerry Brown says that tuition hikes are outrageous, and that UC can save money by putting more courses on-line and getting students out in three years–and by abandoning the notion of competing with other top universities for administrators and faculty. In essence: UC doesn’t have to be like other institutions.
Who are the likely allies here?
For now, Governor Brown and the student regent, Sadia Saifuddin, are on the same side, unsuccessfully opposing UC’s right to hike tuition. They agree on “no,” but maybe not much else. The LA Times reports that Ms. Saifuddin was very clear on this:
Saifuddin sharply rebutted Brown’s ideas about online classes and a three-year degree. “We want a four-year university. We want to talk to our professors. We want to learn in real time,” she said.
For students, a victory on tuition could well be a set-back on other issues.
In real time: I asked my students in a course on protest about their ideas on this controversy. They were steadfast in the opposition to tuition hikes–and to very high salaries for administrators. They were, however, reluctant to sign off on promoting online education or having more courses taught by adjuncts or lecturers. They didn’t want to reduce the library (further) nor cut interscholastic sports (further) or campus maintenance or student services. They’re also critical of UC’s increasing reliance on out-of-state and international tuition dollars–that come at the cost of spots for Californian students.
They want it all: a world-class university, with top-flight research, courses taught by tenure-ladder faculty, and affordable tuition.
Note: that discussion would not have taken place in the same way if they were simply watching a lecture on youtube at some convenient moment.
Governor Brown’s task here is the simplest: emphasize keeping tuition low; others can take the fallout from the execution of efficiencies.
President Napolitano’s job is a little tougher: emphasize a vision of a great university system and clearly link state funding deficits and politics to the pressure on tuition.
The students have the toughest job (here as on other things): fight for their interests on tuition without letting it obscure the quality of education they’re struggling to pay for.