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Here’s why UC protestors aren’t getting empathy

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POSTED December 15, 2009 1:28 a.m.

Now here’s a novel way to prevent the University of California from incurring more costs that in turn impact what students pay for tuition – damage buildings.

Logic 101 and Economics 101 classes must have been cut from UC course offerings. How else would you explain why supposedly bright students in the 10-campus system can’t do basic math?

The state has yet another mega deficit looming - $21 billion at last count. The state provides 26 percent of the $200 billion UC budget. The state is already slashing the heck out of basic education for K-12 levels, healthcare, law enforcement, prisons, social services and more. The state is reeling under a 12 percent unemployment rate with countless others working less hours and without pay raises for the past year or so. It’s not that a general tax hike may be unpopular. It’s more like it will force some people to either cutback on food for their family or try to get by with less power from PG&E to keep from freezing.

Yes, the 32 percent rate hike that takes tuition up to $8,373 this January and $10,302 next fall is steep. However, if they don’t like it, perhaps the regents should have taken the only other route open to them which was slash student enrollment by 10 to 20 percent or more.

They could do it in part by whittling down majors such as Dutch Studies, Celtic Studies, Art History, Dance & Performance, Sculpture, Theater, Music-Bassoon, Playwriting, and Visual Arts to name just a few.

If there is precious little tax dollars to support education even at the K-12 levels, shouldn’t we be concentrating on the studies that are absolutely the most vital to driving California’s economy? Yes, it’s a judgment call but this is Reality 101. You notice General Motors still isn’t offering 20 variations of the same body style. They are actually eliminating whole divisions. Why does UCLA or UC Irvine need two dozen different variations of a music degree?

And why should some struggling farm worker in Mendota have to pay sales tax on clothes to keep his kids warm where part of it will go to underwrite 26 percent of the tab of someone majoring in Art History?

What is needed is a major overhaul of how we educate beyond the 12th grade in this state. It is time to stop the California State University system from trying to soothe its collective ego by striving to become a mirror image of the UC system. Make CSU the technical schools. Rethink some of the areas of concentration at the UC level. Redirect community colleges to become vocational schools.

Look at ways of streamlining degree programs. Is there a way of making a four-year degree attainable in three years to cut costs by 25 percent?

One protest at UC Berkeley was to demand 32 custodians be hired back. You can’t have no cuts and no cost increases. Either costs have to be cut, tuition has to go up, or a combination of the two. If someone believes it is possible otherwise they have no business getting a degree unless, of course, UC is now offering one based on living your life in a fantasy world.

None of the tuition hike hits families making less than $70,000. When protestors say the working class and the poor can’t go to UC they are twisting the facts to fit their argument. I can show you families in the Northern San Joaquin Valley with four in the household getting by on $45,000 a year who don’t consider themselves poor but if they had $71,000 a year to live on they definitely would think they have it made in today’s economy.

Will the tuitions break the back of most students or will it simply force them to stop buying the latest high tech entertainment gizmo or skiing at Lake Tahoe? The Berkeley-based Project on Student Debt last week released a report that said 48 percent of all students graduating from four-year schools in this state – both private and public – will have debt with the average they owe per person coming in at $17,795. Now here’s the shocker. Only six states have lower debt average per graduate student. About two-thirds of all students nationwide graduated in 2008 with a debt average of $23,200. That is up from $18,650 four years ago. California today is still lower than the national average four years ago when it comes to debt.

It seems like the taxpayers of this state have been pretty darn generous.

And let’s not forget why many people pursue four-year degrees. It isn’t just to save the world. Many want to have a larger earning power through their adult life.

It seems reasonable that they should pay for the opportunity to put things in place via a degree that gives them a better shot at making more money than others. Nobody wants to raise tuition or cut back offerings. But something has to give.

Perhaps these are all reasons why very little empathy – let alone sympathy – is being generated for student protestors these days.

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