Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jerry Brown Releases Plan for Higher Ed

Jerry Brown’s recently released plan for education has a few good vague ideas sprinkled amongst some very bad notions. Starting with the good, Brown does recognize the problem of increasing tuition due to the decrease in state funding: “Recent state budgets have raised tuition drastically, reduced the number of new students--as well transfers from community colleges--to CSUC, cut class sections so that students cannot get basic classes they need, and driven good professors to other states. Students are dropping out because of high costs and the extended time needed to finish. California’s historic public university research base is declining.” Not only does Brown stress that the reductions in state funding have led to higher tuitions and fewer classes, but he also laments the loss of professors due to budget reductions.

Is first solution to this problem is to following the current governor and demand that money being spent on prisons is transferred to higher education: “We must also reverse the decades long trend of transferring state support from higher education to prisons. We can do this without sacrificing public safety. For example, as Attorney General, I recently blocked a proposed $8 billion prison hospital expansion—which was unnecessarily expensive and which would have added substantially to our state’s deficit. By relentlessly pursuing similar cost savings, we can channel needed funds to our higher education system.” The problem with this solution is that it is hard to imagine how it can take effect without changing the Three Strikes law and major drug decriminalization.

The next solution that Brown proposes should scare all of us. Like the UC upper administration, Brown endorses online education as a solution to many of high ed’s fiscal problems: “ The introduction of online learning and the use of new technologies should be explored to the fullest, as well as extended University programs. Technology can increase educational productivity, expand access to higher learning, and reduce costs.” Brown’s take on distance education recycles all of the questionable premises that drive the current UC initiative. In this naïve assessment, Brown thinks that access can be increased and costs deceased by some magical form of high-tech efficiencies. I have already written why the result of this process may be to increase costs, produce more work for faculty, and lower the quality and reputation of the university’s education.
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The other great fantasy solution that Brown copies from the UC Commission on the Future of the University is to increase the number of transfer students: “Transfer courses should be closely aligned with, and accepted by, the CSUC and UC systems. For example, transfer students are often forced to take redundant courses to graduate from the CSUC system even though they have completed equivalent coursework in community college.” As I have previously argued, increasing the number of transfer students will only decrease the funding of the university since most of the UC’s profit is made from lower-division, high-enrollment courses that transfer students do not have to take. Of course since Brown, like most of the UC administrators, does not actually understand how the UC makes its money, all he can do is propose unrealistic and unhelpful suggestions. However, we must keep in mind that the other candidate is actually much worse. In other words, we face another election of holding our collective noses while we vote.

14 comments:

  1. Bob, why don't you see if you can become Brown's higher ed advisor?

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    Replies
    1. I think you're right, with articles he made on this blog, Bob deserve to be an advisor.

      - backlink blog dofollow -

      Delete
  2. As Emeritus, this makes no sense to me:

    "Increasing the number of transfer students will only decrease the funding of the university since most of the UC’s profit is made from lower-division, high-enrollment courses that transfer students do not have to take. Of course ... Brown ... does not actually understand how the UC makes its money ..."

    Brown is running for Gov, not UC Prez. He wants to save the State money. Unless UC's "profit ... from lower-division, high-enrollment courses" comes from a non-State source, there is every reason for him to reduce it. I think most of Edley's proposals are lousy, but increasing the numbers of transfer students is not, in principle. The objection is that many transfer courses, like many AP courses, are not good and their grades don't reliably indicate capacity for Upper Division work at UC, and there have been no proposals to evaluate or improve them. If the transfer courses were good, UC should eagerly encourage students (especially low income) to pursue this route, while working VERY hard to articulate these courses with UC's UD courses.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. The question of transfer students touches on one of the central misconceptions regarding university budgets. In the UC system, lower-division courses are the largest and are taught mostly by relatively inexpensive lectures and grad students. These lower-division courses, which transfer students do not have to take, deliver low-cost student credit hours. In fact, since each undergrad brings in $10,000 in tuition and fees and $14,000 from the state, and the average lower-division yearly instructional cost per student is about $4,000, the UC makes about $20,000 per student that goes to pay for research, administration, and everything else. If you lower the number of lower-division students, you starve your cash cow.

    While most of a department’s budget is usually determined by the number of full-time tenured faculty, the only way to increase a budget is to teach more students, and the cheapest way to instruct more students is to use non-tenured faculty in large lower-division courses. Unless the tenured faculty want to start teaching more classes and concentrate on lower-division instruction, they need to find a way to support having more lower-division students.

    Another issue is that as the UC takes on more students through transfer, it tells the state that the community colleges provide the same level of educational quality as the University of California, and therefore, there is no reason to fund the community college students at $4,000 a year, while the UC students get $14,000 a year from the state. There is also the question of determining if the community college students are ready to excel at a research university after being taught at a non-research institution.

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  5. As long as the UC remains so expensive, transferring in from community colleges is one of the only affordable ways for us less wealthy students to even attend the UC. Even after transferring in, the loans I still had to take out just to attend UC were ridiculous! Transfer students add a different reality to the UC that is far more the true character of California rather than the institution dominated by the educationally and economically privileged elite it is.
    I also question the cost shifting onto the backs of the hyper-exploited TA's and Lecturers you seem to be supportive of in this post.
    But, conclusion well taken... Jerry Brown's higher education plan ain't all that to celebrate. But it sure beats Meg Whitman's anti-union, anti-poor plans!

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  6. Yes, this is true that the problem of increasing tuition due to the decrease in state funding. and it should not happen for students and as well as for good professors, those who are transfered by ED. All other points like UC's proposal about online studies are good for all state wise.

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