Saturday, August 15, 2009

California Universities and Colleges in Crisis

Cross-posted by Gary Fouse

“Change exams to reduce grading load (more multiple choice, fewer complicated numerical problems or essays).

Today's Orange County Register has an interesting article on the problems of California's higher education system in the face of massive budget cuts. The article's focus was on California State University at Fullerton.

Like the University of California system, California State University teachers state-wide are being subject to salary cuts and furlough days. According to the Register, Cal. State Fullerton's Senate Executive Committee has issued guidelines and suggestions for its teachers on how to balance the needs of the classroom with the furloughs. Here they are:

“For some classes, it may not be possible to reduce the number of class days and meet the overall objectives of the class.”

Below, you’ll find a sample of the suggested guidelines. Click to the jump page to read the entire Senate Executive Committee document.

“Change exams to reduce grading load (more multiple choice, fewer complicated numerical problems or essays, …)

“Reduce the number of assignments.”

“For homework in which you provide a detailed answer key, don’t grade the homework or just grade it based on how much work was attempted and then provide the detailed key for students to look at on Blackboard. A different option would be to only grade a portion of the homework when you provide a detailed answer key.”

“Put less effort in updating your courses or use them as is, if possible.”

“Refrain from developing new courses.”

“Reduce your number of office hours or let the students know when you won’t be able to answer their emails to reduce your time spent answering emails.”

“We strongly encourage you to have an alternative assignment for students when furlough days coincide with class days. These assignments should not increase your workload and can be as simple as having the students do the reading or homework that would have been assigned for that day. In this way, the students will continue to make progress, even while you are on furlough.”

-OC Register August 15, 2009, p 1.

Similar problems face the University of California campus system, where all full-time teachers (Academic Appointments) are being hit with salary cuts coupled with furlough days. That includes the teachers I work with in the UC-Irvine Extension, English as a Second Language Program-even though this department is a huge profit-maker for the university. On the other hand, the soon to be opened UCI Law School is handing out full scholarships to its entire inaugural class in the fall.

"Barkeep! Drinks for the house!"

Up at UC Santa Cruz (America's wackiest university), the Community Studies Department is facing the possible axe due to budget shortfalls. (If you don't know, this department's mission is to train "community organizers".)

One way the UC system has decided to make up some of its shortfall is to sharply reduce its number of in-state admissions in favor of out-of-state and international admissions. The reason? Higher tuition fees, of course. The average in-state tuition, if I am not mistaken, is $9,000 per year, while out-of-state and international tuition is about $29,000 a year. Do the math.

All of which makes perfect sense in terms of the bottom line. But isn't the main focus of a state (any state) university system to serve its own residents first and foremost? After all, it is California residents who pay the taxes to support the universities, n'est pas? So it looks like many deserving California kids coming out of high school are going to find it hard to get into the UC system; thus, they will be forced to go out of state-and pay higher tuition in the states where they go to study. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

All this is just another result of the profligate spending and criminal mismanagement in Sacramento for the last several years. Now we have woken up to a state that is broke, and the necessary cuts are coming due. It has also affected our higher education.

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