I was distressed by your poll about UC tuition hikes, which asked whether they are “a small price to pay for a great education” or are “ruining the state’s education system.” How do I check both, and neither? California needs a well trained and educated population, but tuition increases are devastating people’s ability to get that education. So yes, they are ruining the state’s education system. But state support has collapsed, so what’s the alternative? Gut the university and ruin the education system that way? Economic hard times may pass in a matter of years, but it has taken a lifetime to build the University of California into the academic powerhouse and economic engine it has been. If we break it, it could take another lifetime to rebuild. Current tuition is no “small price to pay” for anyone, neither for the students paying now, nor for the rest of us who will pay later from not having a trained and skilled citizenry, but losing the best university system in the world would be a higher price.
Joshua Schimel is a professor in UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology