Friday, July 1, 2011

California’s Assault on University Students and Teachers

The freshly signed California budget slashes $650 million each from the budgets of its two preeminent university systems, the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU), serving hundreds of thousands of state residents. The cuts are $150 million more than originally threatened earlier this year and will result in significant tuition hikes and service cuts. The new budget is dependent on predicted increases in revenue to the state. The Bay Citizen writes that if the increased revenue fails to materialize, the universities could lose another $100 million each.

Tuition for California college students has more than tripled over the last decade. With the new cuts, fees are expected to rise another 8% at CSU and 10% at UC next fall, according to the Student Activism blog.

Not only has UC tuition been skyrocketing yearly for California residents, but the university has shifted its focus from providing affordable higher education for all qualified residents to actively recruiting out of state students who must pay an additional non-residents’ tuition of $22,000 each (according to another Bay Citizen report), bringing the university much higher profits per student. The San Francisco Chronicle says that out of state students will bring the university $80 million, up from $54 million last year. As a result, the number of California residents intending to enroll in UC Berkeley's freshman class has dropped by 21% over the past two years, the Bay Citizen reports. The school admitted nearly three times as many out-of-state students this year as it did in 2009. Throughout the nine campus system, the number of out-of-state and international students has more than doubled to 12% since 2009.

At the CSU system, the chancellor is asking the trustees to increase tuition by 12%. CSU has already cut enrollment by 10,000. Students will also find fewer professors at both university systems, making classes more crowded or dropped altogether. And it is not just students who will be suffering. Universities are making it much more difficult to achieve tenure or even to get a tenure-track position, instead offering more adjunct, temporary and part-time teaching professions which many desperate job seekers are willingly accepting. Many are shuttling back and forth between two or more campuses or even university systems in order to have enough teaching assignments to make ends meet.

Universities love “contingent” employees because they are easier to fire, are paid less, and often are not eligible for benefits. Because they are much easier to fire, “contingent” employees are less likely to speak up on their own behalf, or for their students, fearful that any rocking of the boat could spell the end of their job. And it’s not just one specific job they are trying to protect. It might seem a blessing to get laid off from a low-paid, 1-section teaching job with no security or benefits at a community college. However, that lay-off and a potentially bad reference could prevent a person from securing a better full-time position at another college when such a position opens up.

According to the SF Chronicle, the number of full professors in the CSU system dropped by 13% from 1990 to 2010, and full- and part-time lecturers rose by 10%. For each lecturer who replaces a tenured professor, the university saves an average of $31,679. However, lecturers do not always participate in faculty or department meetings and are left out of academic senate meetings and decision-making. They lack the institutional support and time to mentor students the way professors can. The lack of a stable office and time means that it much harder for students to get letters of recommendation or even help with their homework. In the UC system, the number of lecturers grew by 37% between 1998 and 2010, while the number of professors grew by only 21%.

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