Dear President Yudof,

I truly sympathize with you. After the state cut $813 million from the University of California budget, hordes of disgruntled faculty and students began screaming over furloughs, program cuts and tuition increases, demanding that you somehow close the budget gap by unlawfully drawing from research grants that are legally bound to other, non-academic duties. You once remarked that the UC system has been engaging in “faith-based budgeting” and has waited for “the legislature to turn on the spigot” to fuel the UC’s natural expansion. Well, now the legislature has turned the spigot off, and you’ve been left to pick up the pieces. Your choice to seek private funding through the selling of bonds is an important first step to short term recovery, but it also provides a unique opportunity for disinvestment from state funding, the root cause of all our problems.

The California schooling system has been held to a rigorous structure ever since the passage of the “master plan,” a law requiring that 12.5 percent of the state’s top college students be guaranteed a place in the UC system. The burden of responsibility for this mandate has fallen on the schools, for the UCs must, by law, provide high quality education for an ever expanding population of students. But what happens when the state runs out of money in an economic collapse? The educational mandate does not disappear; politicians would lose their jobs if they ever declared education as an optional responsibility of government. Instead, the universities are left with no choice but to raise tuition fees.

Yet when tuition is raised, academics begin to despair that education will become “unaffordable.” Their solution is to demand that the state provide loans subsidized by the government to cover the increasing costs, and this forces struggling, cash-strapped students to become debtors at an early age. Whenever the state budget falls short, the UC increases fees and the government steps in with loans to save the day. Due to this financial aid scheme, successive generations of students have faced increasingly enormous debts while the government continues to double down on obligations it can’t afford. The most recent economic crisis has exposed the glaring flaws in California’s public education, and now you must account for a system that was broken long before you took office.

Understand that the faculty is not upset with your inability to raise money, but that you’ve been too effective at raising it in private markets. Indeed, academia wishes you to do anything but raise private dollars, even it means holding a tin can in front of the legislature or illegally diverting research funds to academic expenses, because they fear a future “privatization” of the UC system. This is not about privatizing public colleges, but pulling the UC out of an empty public trough that has failed our schools and passed a heavy burden of debt onto students. Keep selling those bonds, Mr. President; by disinvesting from state funding, you’re doing the UC system and its student body a big favor.
Steven Begakis