Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The End of an Affordable College Education

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 11:20 AM

California's public colleges and universities used to be the envy of the nation. For a half-century, they provided an excellent education at an affordable price. But not any longer. The California State University system is raising student fees through the roof, and this week, the UC Board of Regents plans to increase them by a whopping 32 percent. It also plans to break its own long-standing promise of making sure that graduate programs are priced competitively with other public universities.

Last week, a report from the state's Legislative Analyst put the state's education crisis in blunt terms. California's Master Plan for Higher Education, established in 1960 to ensure a quality education at a low price for qualifying state residents, is now largely a joke, according to the report. "Today, its assumptions look pretty quaint," the report's author told the San Francisco Chronicle. "There's a big disconnect between what the state's priorities are and what's actually going on."

California's severe budget crisis prompted state legislators to slash $2 billion in higher education funding this year - $800 million from the UC system, $500 million from CSU, and $700 million from community colleges. Both CSU and UC are implementing huge student fee increases as a result, and the UC regents plan to push undergraduate fees above $10,000 annually next year.

The regents also plan to boost fees for 44 graduate programs - from 7 percent to 65 percent. The increase in 24 of those programs represents a direct violation of UC's own policy that grad programs not exceed the average cost of similar programs nationwide. But the Chronicle reports that instead of doing anything about the violation, the regents simply plan to revise the policy next year.

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