As a student who is currently enrolled in a California State University, I have witnessed the devastating effects that the higher education crisis is having on this state. My student fees have increased with the coming of each new semester. My professors have had to completely redesign their courses so that they can teach as many students as the fire code will allow in a classroom at a time. My fellow students and I are “crashing” any open classes left and right, trying to get enough units to reach full-time status so that we can qualify for financial aid and health insurance.
My fellow students and I are idealistic and optimistic. We believe in hope and change. And we want a candidate for governor who will make higher education reform the top priority in their campaign. As the situation stands Meg Whitman has not made higher education a priority in her plan to govern California and it is doubtful that she will ever see the direct correlation between the health of the state’s higher educational system and the condition of our state’s economy.
Jerry Brown, however, still has the time to make higher education reform the pinnacle of his gubernatorial platform. Brown should learn from San Francisco Mayor and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaigns for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. As a candidate for both offices, Mayor Newsom made higher education reform one of his top concerns. And as a result, Students for Gavin Newsom established chapters at 36 colleges and 35 high schools up and down the state, making it the arguably the largest grassroots student movement ever organized in the state of California.
While it is true that the majority of people who are most likely to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election are senior citizens, it is far more beneficial for Brown to court the youth vote by running on higher education reform. We are living in an era where a bachelor’s degree is no longer preferred-but required-in order to land most jobs. So not only is this higher education crisis threatening the economic well being of California’s students now but it will threaten the economy of this entire state and this whole country in the future, if something is not done to solve it.
There are several solutions to help combat the state’s higher education crisis. One of the most obvious is adopting an oil severance tax-which would tax the oil as it is pumped from the ground. California is the only state in the country that does not have this tax and it is costing us dearly. Another solution is to repeal the requirement that the state legislature must have a two-thirds majority in order to raise taxes or pass a budget. We are all familiar with the culture of partisanship and greed that plagues the politicians in Sacramento. It is high time that we make these politicians work for us, their constituents, rather than working against their colleagues in the halls of the State Capitol Building.
There are no small or easy ways to solve California’s higher education problems. The time has come for audacious, sweeping higher education reform. The time has come for candidates who embrace the big and the bold and are unafraid of taking risks.
Students are too often accused of being politically apathetic and blissfully ignorant of what is going on in the world around us. But as anyone who has recently stepped foot on a college campus knows, times have changed. We want a candidate for governor who recognizes that higher education reform is the answer to the problems that California has been dealing with for far too long.
California’s young voters, myself included, need to know that Jerry Brown has a plan to truly reform higher education in California. Jerry Brown needs to know that if he wants young people to turn out and vote for him in November, higher education reform is the way to get us into the voting booth.