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Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Governor's Inaugural Address: More Higher Ed Clichés

Governor Brown gave his 4th and final inaugural address today and said very little about higher education.  Instead, he focused attention on other issues: K-12 education, criminal justice, the environment, and his favorite issue of all--controlling spending.  It is certainly possible to see his lack of focus as a positive thing for the state's public colleges and universities.  His recent ideas have not been great, and relative neglect might lower the temperature to allow serious thinking on how to raise educational quality in the state's higher education institutions.

Unfortunately, what little he did say is not encouraging.  Here are his comments on higher education:
With respect to education beyond high school, California is blessed with a rich and diverse system. Its many elements serve a vast diversity of talents and interests. While excellence is their business, affordability and timely completion is their imperative. As I’ve said before, I will not make the students of California the default financiers of our colleges and universities. To meet our goals, everyone has to do their part: the state, the students and the professors. Each separate institution cannot be all things to all people, but the system in its breadth and diversity, through real cooperation among its segments, can well provide what Californians need and desire.
Several points stand out here: the displacement of "excellence" (admittedly a vacuous term) by "timely completion"; the implicit opposition to further tuition hikes coupled with a lack of real commitment to address the problem of tuition through state funding; and a belief in the inadequacy of the campus's efforts.  "To meet our goals, he said, "everyone has to do their part: the state, the students, and the professors." Since Gov. Brown has already indicated that he believes the state is doing enough and that students should not be asked to do more,  then what is left? The professors, who must be blocking timely completion and affordability by not teaching enough students and not going online enough. 

Here then is the problem with Brown's approach to higher education: in his mind the problem is not that students do not get enough time to work with faculty; it is that they get too much time. Instead of figuring out a way to fund an educational experience that enables deeper learning and higher skills he wants to speed up the process and make it more Amazon-like than it already is. As many have pointed out, higher education has been using adjuncting and massification to create teaching "efficiencies" for thirty years.  They have reduced degree productivity and quality, and cannot now suddenly increase them.

Dealing with a 1970s-model of educational efficiency will be one challenge for 2015.


Anonymous said...

I'll make a prediction: that by the end of Brown's last term, a substantial number of the community colleges will be offering four year degrees.

Anonymous said...

When the NY Times asked Brown about his choice of three Yale law graduates for California Supreme Court, he said he would consider graduates of other law schools in the future but that "Yale is pretty good - it's a small school, so it's very selective." Is his idea that California higher education should be non-selective standardized education for the non-elite, while leaders should be educated and mentored in "small" and "selective" schools in faraway places?

Chris Newfield said...

both of these comments are right. the new 2-year degree in four years. and UC TV for the masses. that's the default--a great legacy for the post-war generation whose parents and grandparents paid taxes so the jerry-kids could get everything for free

Anonymous said...

Continuing to provide access is a big problem. The CSU is facing canceling freshman admissions for next fall, at least at some of the campuses, if the budget isn't augmented. Our local campus (Fresno) turned away 4,000 applicants for fall as it is, and is discussing seeking a declaration of campus-wide impaction so it can implement stricter admission standards.

The pilot program to allow the CCC to offer BA/BS degrees may be the "answer" to maintain higher ed access. A couple of the CCC districts in my neck of the woods are discussing becoming part of the pilot.

Chris Newfield said...

if we want 4-year degrees, we need to buy seats in a 4-year college. The CCC plan is a shell game to funnel more students into colleges (2 year) that spend less than CSU per student, which they do by having instructors teach 5-6 courses a term rather than 3-4 at CSU, and by using a higher percentage of adjuncts. I don't have time to look up the specifics right now, but the pattern is universal in the US, and its the magic bullet for people who don't know and don't care about how learning happens. I'd be ok with the debate on the plans if the cutters would just say "yes, we know we're giving this generation less for more, because we can. We can guess the teacher that grades 125 papers three times a semester isn't providing the quality care of one who grades 70 or 35, but so what? Minority majority California isn't going anywhere fast as a unified state, and the people who control Sacramento care about a small number of high-end specialists for their financial, technical, and legal operations but not about the overall population." That would at least have the honesty of say David Crane trying to take away state workers' pensions. Instead we get all this pious nonsense about how people need to do more, people aren't trying hard enough, people aren't working hard enough, people aren't giving enough. It's ridiculously wrong about just about everybody,and it's recycled Reaganism as a substitute for an actual plan to get California education and infrastructure up to where South Korea et al already are. (I don't mean you Anon I mean our governor.) Honestly I never thought I'd see sideways drift described as the engine of California's future, but that's what we're hearing.

TB said...

Just out of curiosity, how many of you voted against Jerry Brown in the last election? (I did, and I am a convinced liberal on many issues, certainly on social issues albeit admittedly less so on certain economic issues.) I think it's time we vote our pockets and I wish this blog was more involved in political campaigning promoting the UC interests. As it stands, we are treated by politicians, particularly by Democrats, as complete push-overs: they think we will vote for them no matter what (while Republicans seem to believe we would not vote for them en mass no matter what). Interestingly, we are much more in the public eye than your average voter (just think of various press releases, interviews etc.), yet we completely fail to use it to our political and economic advantage.
Perhaps I grew too cynical, but it seems to me that threatening elected officials with withdrawing our support is a much more promising route than trying to educate the public at large. Just look at the NRA if still in doubt...

Anonymous said...

TB, not a bad idea in the abstract. But impractical in reality. Unlike the NRA, the higher education community in California (let alone nationally) is divided. There are conservative faculty who believe a solution is to deny undocumented immigrants access to CCC, CSU and UC thus opening space for American citizens. They also support the redesign of pensions.

Then you get into the whole issue of public employees politicking. State law, I believe, bars the sort of mass movement you're speaking of. At the least, you can't use public facilities for photo ops and such.

Chris Newfield said...

The faculty need to articulate educational standards publicly and explain clearly why today's funding structure doesn't sustain them. I do think this part of a project we haven't ever developed has a public audience, but the specific one of our students and their families. The next step is for those kinds of voters to vote against officials, starting with liberal austerity Democrats, who don't offer higher ed the fiscal support it needs to do its job. I think TB is completely right about this. Faculty wouldn't be politicking exactly, but offering the professional standards that would help the public set up an accountability structure that targets underfunding. This has worked repeatedly with K-12: conditions and funding have improved since the early 2000s (see First to Worst as an example of that period https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5NhiM9ApCw ), and it's largely because parents are directly involved with their kids' K-12 learning conditions and speak out and organize around them. There were first signs last year that UC parents are starting to think in the same way

California Policy Issues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
California Policy Issues said...

It's possible to read more into Brown's comments than is there. Basically, what he said is what he said at the Regents meeting in November when the UC tuition/state funding proposal was made. On Friday, when the budget plan for 2015-16 is released, we'll know more. Brown could go nuclear - something like taking away any tuition increase dollar for dollar from state funding. UC could retaliate by cutting admissions (something CSU has quietly done already with almost no one noticing while UC took the heat on tuition). In any case, budgets require the legislature, not just the governor. And there are almost six months to go before a new budget must be in place - so time for behind the scenes deals to be cut between Brown, Napolitano, and legislative leaders. On verra. -Dan Mitchell

Anonymous said...

Dan, I'm probably one of the few who paid attention to the stories regarding what CSU may do in the fall. They were very low key. But the message was we will cancel freshman admissions in the fall to avoid a tuition/fee increase. I know stories were aired in Fresno (in November) and in San Diego (in December).

I'll be fascinated to see the budget proposal on Friday!

Anonymous said...

There's a huge, unremembered irony in the midst of the current battle over student fees. UC started down the road of dramatically higher student fees at the behest of Sacramento. Today's political leaders may not remember but should be reminded that their predecessors set this direction and it is up to them to change it. Specifics: In 2004, then-Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed budget for the University included a specific provision that UC would increase student share of funding for educational expenses and reduce state funds, including capping the return to aid portion of new fees at 20%. See the budget item presented to the March 2004 Regents meeting at
"The Governor has proposed a long-term student fee policy for the University of California and
the California State University that calls for increases in student fees equivalent to the rise in
California per capita personal income. In years in which the segments determine that fiscal
circumstances require increases that exceed the rate of growth in per capita personal income, UC
and CSU may determine that fee increases of up to 10% are necessary to provide sufficient
funding for existing programs and preserve quality."

Chris Newfield said...

true about this irony. But it was Arnold and UCOP / CSU's chancellor's office that came up with the compact deal- as I remember it the Regents and the legislature were in the dark until it was announced. I don't think the leg dems feel any responsibility at all for that (even if they did have memories or felt responsible for things they do)

Ann Mosley said...

The thing is that the majority of graduates can't work. They simple don't know how to. Whole this time they've being taught how to pass tests and get appropriate grades instead of advancing in practical knowledge. Some students even go for higher education and order college essays writer for pay to do even less than that. It's a pity they invest into thing that do nothing to solve this problem. We basically teach students to pretend that they know something. There should be a better way to help them improve.

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