All posts by tatere

UC tuition hikes as prime example of broken California

I’m sure people have seen the news about the proposed 8% “fee” increase (no tuition here, no sir) at UC for next year. The regents are trying to make it seem not so bad with a one-time discount for families under certain income limits. As if we’d all forget that college lasts generally a bit longer than one year. It’s like a mugger giving you a cookie.

I’d propose that this kind of thing – enormous fees on the one hand, penurious aid to “deserving” students on the other – is exactly why people hate taxes and hate government. It’s one of the fundamental neoliberal flaws that we need to face and fix. And Jerry Brown taking the Governor’s office again is a perfect hook to explain what’s gone wrong.

Check out this 2005 SF Chronicle article about the soaring cost of a UC education (about half what it is now). They talk about the cost of a UC education in 1975 being about $650. (UPDATE: That’s about $2500 in 2010 dollars, so only a 500% increase, not 2000%, lucky us.)

1975 is when Brown first took office. What has happened between then and now? Not just the sabotaging of the master plan by Reagan, although we’re seeing the same long game by the right in action elsewhere here in and in DC. Is the state poorer? Did all the teachers die and we have to import them from other planets?

I know what I would imagine happened – taxes not keeping up, Prop 13 sucking away state budgets, the step from Free to Well Just A Little making it easy to keep adding Just A Little Bit More – but there’s actual data about this that I think it would be worth someone’s time to put together.

How much were people paying in taxes in 1975? At what levels? Where did that money go? How does that compare to now?

I think there’s a kind of fundamental bargain people make when they accept progressive income taxes – that everyone will benefit, that the money will go to the public good, and everyone is part of the public. Making people pay more as they make more and simultaneously giving them less is breaking that bargain. It makes people feel swindled. People hate it when they have to go to a bureaucrat and ask to be found worthy, “deserving”. They hate it from banks and insurance companies, and they hate it from the state.

But means-testing became The Smart Thing to do for liberals because it was focused and efficient and all part of reinventing government – the Washington Monthly style. Eventually it spread everywhere because we just didn’t have the money and what the hell else was there to do?

I think we need to turn away from that. “High fee, high aid” is completely wrong. If affordable public higher education is a public good – something that improves all of our society, not just the indvidual students – then it should just be cheap, period. Even for rich people, the horror.  

Why does California have a Senate?

Does it serve some purpose? Four year terms aren’t so very much longer than two. They don’t represent counties anymore. Just because the Feds have a Senate (in all its splendor) isn’t much of a reason for us to have one.

I’d trade it in for term limits. You can be re-elected as many times as your district wants to vote for you but you have to run every two years.

Or, even more blue-sky: Increase the size of the Assembly and make the new 40 seats statewide party list seats. If you get 2.5% of the vote, you get a seat. Or some such arrangement, maybe not statewide. But the two major state parties are such failures, I think it’d be good to get some wild cards in there.