Sacramento, Beware: Our Pockets Aren’t Bottomless

    Christina Aushana/Guardian

    UC student fees are set to rise again next year and it’s becoming rapidly more difficult to exercise restraint in finger-pointing. With a governor set on continually slashing state funding for higher education, a Board of Regents with nowhere to turn but the already barren pockets of its students and a state Legislature tied down by a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, the blame for this extended barrage on student finances could lie just about anywhere.

    Yet the player in this dilemma with the most clout over the financial future of the university’s already cash-strapped student body is, without a doubt, our state government. The regents, while vastly well endowed, ultimately have little reach beyond the realm of university affairs and few options but to up tuition when faced with such massively inadequate state funding, as they must now deal with.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature, however, command one of the most powerful economies in the nation — a $2 trillion enterprise strapped with vast resources and a constant flow of income. It’s hard to believe that nowhere within this enormous realm of capital can our state political leaders find the cash to fund California’s most important investment: the education of its future leaders.

    Though this point has been repeated so often that its utterance has become almost a reflex in addressing the subject of student fee increases, the frequency with which it resurfaces is only a testament to the fact that our government officials have yet to realize the importance of adequately funding public education at all levels. It won’t be until years from today, when the now invisible effects of our government’s inattention to the development of human capital begin to show, that hindsight will reveal the long-term economic perils of such actions.

    Ultimately, however, simply pointing out the civic responsibilities of our politicians does little to produce the sort of tangible change that our state now requires in order to salvage the integrity and affordability that characterize its public higher-education systems. Perhaps it’s time to raise the sales tax, an option sure to be countered by fierce opposition, or perhaps Big Business or the wealthy should begin to shoulder more of the burden of California’s current financial shortcomings.

    Until then, we’re just taxing our students, those who deserve the most this state has to offer.

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