Nationwide State Budget Woes Affect Public Universities the Most

As I leave one state (Wisconsin) in dire economic straits led by a group of incompetent corporate cronies, I make a (triumphant?) return to California after a stint in Los Angeles in 2006.  Jerry Brown’s administration has inherited quite a mess out there, and the long awaited end to the joyride of mortgaging the future of young Californians is upon us.

Moving to from one state’s flagship public university town (Madison) to that of another (Berkeley), I can’t help but to draw parallels. While UW’s tuition hikes cannot compare to that of Cal, the stories of budget cuts, employee furloughs, and a the resulting fall in the academic job market are quite similar. Sadly,the rest of the two states’ public schools have it even worse.

Having been furloughed myself as a UW employee in 2008-2010, I can say that it stinks. And it cuts back on productivity, ultimately COSTING the state money. Now, I have friends that are taking CUTS in pay AND benefits. Is this the way forward. See my earlier Walker budget protest post for a rant about what a genius plan this is to attract the brightest minds to the state.

Protests over California’s ridiculous tuition hikes sparked outrage among a student body and a university community known for activism. Over 100 people were arrested in Berkeley in November 2009 for disturbances and tresspassing. University buildings were occupied by frustrated students. This did not stop the Scwarzenegger Administration from enforcing a 32 percent spike in public college tuition (in what was already by far the most expensive state to attend college) over the last two academic years.

A massive budget deficit of $26 billion this year is projected to make higher education even more expensive in California.  Spending cuts, coupled with possible tax increases, are certainly necessary to stave off bankruptcy.  But California has been undergoing draconian budget cuts for years now. Layoff notices are already going out to California’s teachers. Local agencies are closing offices, cutting both workers and services.

There have got to be better ways do deal with the state budget crises. While California’s mess dwarfs Wisconsin’s, that mostly has to do with population and cost of living. The burden should not fall on public employees and public universities. The private sector created these problems, and they should pay for it with MUCH higher taxes. This austerity BS is just another way for Republicans to stick it to unions and for the rich to stick it to everyone anyway.

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About Joe Doolen

I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Journalism and Mass Communication. My aim is to write on science and international issues with a focus on environmental policy and justice. Topics range from local and domestic politics to international communications and culture, and anything cool about science really!!
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