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12% tuition hike underscores need to rethink higher education system

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POSTED July 14, 2011 12:47 a.m.

It will now cost $5,742 a year in tuition to attend a California State University campus full-time.

That’s double what it was in 2007.

Something has to give and that something isn’t California taxpayers.

Taxpayers support three systems of higher learning: the University of California, the California State University, and California Community Colleges.

The higher you go in the academic food chain, the less face-to-face time students get with the actual instructor/professor. The research mission of the UC system minimizes the time a professor actually spends teaching. At the other extreme is the community college system that focuses 100 percent on teaching. The cost of running each system is reflected accordingly in their range of tuition.

The first step would be to reduce the number of classes at both the UC and CSU systems that fill the general obligation requirement and prerequisites that are normally packed in the first two years of college. The lower-cost community colleges should expand to accommodate such offerings. By shifting resources you can save money.

Yes, students would be “robbed” of the full four-year college experience. But it would also stop “robbing” taxpayers to bankroll college ambiance for something that could be done cheaper and just as effective at a two-year college and then transferring.

Such a shift could also set the stage for creating more opportunity as the economy recovers. That can be done by using extra space created at the UC and CSU campuses by clearing out lower division classes. If you have essentially upper division students that would in theory double the teaching capacity of each campus.

It would be less expensive to expand community colleges as the state grows. More community college campuses could be built that would allow more students to stay closer to home for the first two years of their college education.

That would lower the cost to everyone - taxpayers and students alike.

At the same time compensation, particularly of administrators, must be reined in.

During this week’s meeting when tuition was hiked 12 percent to cover a state budget shortfall, the CSU governing board approved a $400,000 a year salary for the new San Diego campus president. Elliot Hirshman will make $400,000 while the man he replaced - Stephen Weber - made $299,345.

As for the Malarkey that they can’t attract talented individuals unless they “pay market price”, consider this: One of the most studious and educated persons in the country who makes decisions that affect many more people makes $223,500 a year.

That man is U.S. Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts.

To paraphrase Gov. Jerry Brown: It is incredible that the CSU system cannot find a qualified man or woman to lead a university unless they are paid twice that of the chief justice of the United States.

It is time not just for cutbacks in higher education. It is time for major revamping and reform.

If not, look for the tuition to double again by 2015.

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