Sunday, March 25, 2018

Yes but...

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters complains that the 1960 Master Plan is out of date. It's not all that controversial to argue that a 58 year old plan could stand some revision. But there is more to be said. First, here is an excerpt from the Walters column. Then there is some commentary by yours truly:

The Assembly Higher Education Committee unanimously endorsed Assembly Bill 1936 this month, which would seem to bode well for its enactment.

It would create an Office of Higher Education Performance and Accountability to plan how California is to meet its ever-rising demand for post-high school education and coordinate the state’s three college and university systems.

However, if history is any guide, AB 1936 is doomed. At least seven other bills with similar purposes have either died in the Legislature or been vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in recent years, including two others by AB 1936’s author, Assemblyman Evan Low, a Campbell Democrat.

The demise of those bills and the likely death of AB 1936 testify to the difficulty California’s politicians have in dealing with one of the state’s thorniest issues.

Every bit of data tells us that California faces a potential crisis because it is failing to generate enough college-educated workers to replace retiring baby boomers and fill the demands of an increasingly sophisticated economy.

That failure underscores the irrelevance of the state’s nearly 60-year-old “master plan” for higher education, which envisioned seamless, low-cost access to community colleges, the state university system and the University of California.

Costs, particularly for tuition at the four-year schools, have skyrocketed as the state’s financial support has declined. Demand for classes leading to graduation has outstripped supply. And the three systems that were supposed to be models of cooperation have become fiercely competitive for money and academic turf control...

...The Capitol’s politicians should be admitting that the master plan is obsolete and writing a new version that deals with 21st century realities rather than mid-20th century suppositions.
However, (Gov. Jerry) Brown has been unwilling to take on the task he says is needed, even though his father, former Gov. Pat Brown, helped give birth to the original master plan. Higher education reform thus joins the list of difficult, unsexy but vital issues that Brown says need attention, but that he’s left untouched, such as reforming the state’s outdated and dangerously imbalanced tax system and overhauling the cumbersome California Environmental Quality Act.
Therefore, the higher education conundrum will fall to the next governor, who will either rise to the occasion or continue Brown’s legacy of neglect.

The problem, however, is not really that Jerry Brown has been unwilling to take on the task he says is needed, but rather than he has dealt with that task by a personal approach - ad hoc decisions based on his student experience at Berkeley and other impressions - rather than doing what his dad did. Dad set up a process - not a personal conclusion. The process produced the Master Plan. Brown Jr., in contrast, sat down in private with the UC prez in a "Committee of Two." As far as we can tell, the Committee of Two's internal working was that the governor told the UC prez what he wanted. In that respect, the Brown II regime, which began with the election of 2010, was not much different from the Brown I regime that began with the election of 1976. 

We have no indication from any of the likely gubernatorial candidates that they have in mind a process any different than the non-process we have had under Jerry Brown. If Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is indeed the leading candidate to succeed Brown, all we know from his behavior at the Regents meetings he has attended is that he is against tuition increases. He says UC should instead get the money from the legislature. But if the legislature doesn't come up with the money, he still is against tuition increases. 

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