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Leading up to the University of California Regents Meeting on May 14 and 15, the UCSB External Vice President of Student Affairs Office, A.S. Office of the President and A.S. Academic Affairs Board hosted a forum on the California Master Plan of Higher Education in the Student Resource Building yesterday.
After UCSB became the first school to pass a resolution in support of reevaluating the Master Plan in 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano said at January’s UC Regent’s meeting that she was open to revising the plan to better serve students’ needs. Former A.S. President Harrison Weber, Literature and American Studies Professor Chris Newfield and Economics Professor Jon Sonstelie spoke at yesterday’s forum, offering different academic and professional perspectives on reevaluating the plan.
According to Newfield, reforming the Master Plan is necessary because smaller UC campuses fund larger universities in the system and therefore have an actual investment in these other schools.
“We could talk about breaking up the UC system for the simple reason that UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego and the other smaller UC campuses subsidize UC Berkeley and UCLA,” Newfield said.
Newfield said the UC system is currently struggling financially because California residents have not understood the importance of public investment.
“We had 30 years of cheapness,” Newfield said. “Thirty years of older people not being willing to pay for younger people — 30 years of people not understanding what public investment is.”
Sonstelie disagreed with Newfield’s desire to have the general public foot the cost of the University of California system, as he said college education needs to be funded partially through grants and loans. College graduates earn 50 percent more in wages over their lifetime than high school graduates do, according to Sonstelie, making fees an inevitable but not necessarily impossible obstacle.
“I totally understand the problem that borrowing money now is a problem, but I think it’s the only way it works,” Sonstelie said. “It doesn’t make sense for someone to pay for another person to make 50 percent more money than them … I hate to say it, but we have to figure out how to finance education through some sort of grants and some sort of loans.”
According to Sonstelie, debt can be managed in better ways than it currently is, possibly through the support of middle-class families.
“I just think we need to make debt work better,” Sonstelie said. “What it comes down to is asking middle-class families in California to subsidize the education for people that will be wealthy in the future.”
Former A.S. President Weber said the way students approach higher education today is fundamentally flawed. Many students are underprepared for the demands of a research university and should first attend junior colleges before determining whether they are suited for four-year research universities, according to Weber.
“In my estimation, there should be far more students getting their first two years of education at a community college and then decide whether they want to go to a research university,” Weber said.
Sonstelie disagreed with Weber and argued for increased competition at UC Santa Barbara. According to Sonstelie, UC Santa Barbara deserves more credit than it currently receives.
“I’m in favor of more competition,” Sonstelie said. “The way the system is set up, there’s a monopoly on prestige. I’d like to see us compete up there more.”
However, Newfield said the most important issue to address is funding, as once funding issues are rectified then the UC system will not have the same problems rationing resources for students.
“We’re sending you out there to compete with Stanford students, and you get one class in four years with 15 students,” Newfield said. “We fix the funding issue first. With the sufficient funds, I don’t think there’s going to be the same amount of rationing needs.”
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.