State must keep higher education affordable
Affordable higher education has been something California has been able to boast about since the institutions first opened their doors. With the current budget proposals swirling around Sacramento, post-secondary education may only be available for the wealthy and those who qualify for financial aid.
It is time we put an end to balancing the budget on the backs of our future. Without an educated work force, we may not have a work force at all.
We are not saying that people with higher degrees are better workers. But clearly there are professions where a high school diploma or on-the-job training is not sufficient.
It is near impossible to get a white-collar job without a higher degree these days. Most employers require a bachelor’s at a minimum, and many are looking for applicants with a master’s. The last thing we should do is limit who gets a higher education because of money.
It is inevitable the middle class will be hit hardest because those from higher-income families will have the cash to hand over to the institutions while those on the other end of the spectrum will qualify for loans or grants.
This week trustees of the California State University system got together to consider the governor’s plan to raise undergraduate fees by 25 percent and graduate fees by 20 percent. This comes on the heels of trustees voting a month ago to hike fees 10 percent for undergraduates and 15 percent for graduate students.
In real dollars the latest proposal means students attending the country’s largest university system would pay $1,968 a year in 2003-04, an increase of $396 for undergraduates. Graduate students would pay $2,082 a year, up $348.
This is still a bargain compared to many states. But that does not make it right.
It is also community college students who will have a lighter wallet. The governor wants to increase the cost of a semester unit by $23. Lake Tahoe Community College, because it’s on the quarter system, would have its fee per unit increase between $7 and $16. This could be an increase of nearly $600 a year for the student taking 12 units a quarter.
Paychecks clearly are not going up by the same percentage that expenses are. There needs to be another way to solve the state’s budget problems besides balancing the books at the cost of keeping students out of the classroom.
It is in all of our interests to educate the next generation as well as further the education of adults who are going back to school. Because we all benefit from an educated society it would seem logical that lawmakers keep higher education as affordable as possible and distribute the pain to all of us.
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