For the past few years, California’s community college system has been falling apart like a dumped girl watching a romantic comedy. But recently, the appointment of new heads to both the community college and university systems have given some residents hope.
Unfortunately, they’d be better off hoping for Shaq to take the Lakers to another championship.
On October 4, California appointed Timothy P. White as chancellor of the California State University System. And he is raring to go.
“It’s a day when I double down on my commitment to the state of California,” he told reporters, according to the Associated Press.
But his eagerness should incite terror, not hope. California does not need a government official to “double down” on the issue; too much government has been the problem all along.
Historically, California has involved itself in community colleges more than a stage mom at a pageant. It completely funded the classes up until 1984, and still offers the cheapest — read: most heavily subsidized — credits in the country at $46 per unit, according to The Los Angeles Times. But a great deal of students still qualify for free classes. The Department of Finance estimates that about 63 percent of student fees would be waived under the 2012-13 budget.
Of course, waiving fees doesn’t make the costs go away — it just places the burden somewhere else. In this case, it’s on California. The Los Angeles Times reported that state aid accounts for a whopping 61 percent of the entire community college system’s budget. Whoa. California bears a burden of $617 billion in debt, according to the annual debt report released on Aug. 28 by State Budget Solutions, a non-partisan research and advocacy group. And it also has most of the financial responsibility of the nation’s largest community college system? This business model is laughable, and its failures should not surprise anyone.
Government subsidies do not reduce the actual cost of college classes. They make it appear cheap – or even free – to go to school. Just like any time the government offers a scarce good too cheaply, classes must be rationed in another way than price.
And classes are certainly scarce. California community colleges have cut course offerings by 24 percent since budget cuts in 2008, according to CA.gov, and it certainly wasn’t because of decreased demand. An informal survey of 78 of the system’s 112 colleges by the California Community Chancellor’s Office reported more than 472,300 students on waiting lists for classes this fall semester.
California has a monopoly on education, despite its blatant inability to handle it. Its complete control prevents alternatives from stepping in to do a better job. Small changes — such as new officials, tax increases, or tweaks to the budget — cannot fix a system so inherently flawed. It’s not time for the government to “double down,” it’s time for it to back away and allow private-sector alternatives to supply.
There is a demand waiting to be met, and California can’t do it. The state must drastically reduce its role in order to allow outside resources and alternatives to do what it so clearly cannot — both for the benefit of the students, and so it can keep its focus on its own problems.
Katherine Timpf is a 2012 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Kathlyn Ehl
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Jacob Hayutin