A not-so-stealthy issue in the debate over the University of California’s proposed tuition hikes is the growing economic gap between the system’s 10 campuses and the communities they serve.
This growing gap looms as part of the fight between Gov. Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano and whatever the outcome at the Nov. 20 Board of Regents meeting, it is an issue that will crop up again and again.
For business owners trying to operate in the shadow of a large campus such as UC Santa Barbara, the gap is obvious. In many cases, UC faculty and staff benefit from salaries and pensions that far outstrip anything that can be had in the local private sector. So, the tuition and fees paid by UC students contribute to an upward spiral of costs with less benefit to the local community.
Indeed, it is entitled civil servants of all types, whether at local, state or special district organizations, who are helping to keep housing costs high and who contribute heavily to keeping no-growth politicians and politics in place.
The have-nots in this case are relatively new residents, many of them Hispanic or Asian. They will now face the double whammy of high housing costs and high costs of sending their kids to college.
It’s clear that having a cutting-edge UC campus like Santa Barbara in your backyard has huge benefits.
From technology spinouts, to major contruction projects funded by gazillionaire donors to vast cultural attractions, the opportunities presented by public universities are enormous. For San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly is playing a huge role in its emergence as a niche technology hub, and over the long run, Camarillo will benefit hugely from its proximity to CSU Channel Islands.
And as real estate editor Elijah Brumback writes in the current issue of the Business Times, UCSB is taking steps to provide housing for some 5,000 students and faculty as part of its long range plan.
But Gov. Brown is correct in signaling to Napolitano & Co. that it is time to call a time-out on tuition increases and look at the future of the UC system in a longer-term context.
Just putting tuition on auto-pilot and calling it good is not a great way to proceed. We are reminded that not so long ago it was strongly suggested that the U.S. needed to absolutely deregulate its markets and, in particular, unshackle derivative regulations in order to remain competitive and attract the best talent.
The UC arguments for tuition hikes are made in much the same vein. Where will it end? We know what happened to the financial markets.