The value of public higher education

September 20, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs

I came from a middle class family. We were
comfortable, but there were five kids in the family. There was the expectation that of
course that I would go to college. I could work a summer job and pay pretty much the
whole year in tuition, which was almost nothing, and books and room and board by myself and
the same for my four siblings. My father never had to pay anything. No one went into debt
to go into university…it was a public good that was the expectation.
That has eroded and, to me, that’s really unbelievable. That pact between the people
of California and the next generation, leaders, has been broken. Now, I don’t see it reversing,
but it should slow. The University of California is such a precious jewel in the state, it
must be preserved. It should be nourished. Look at a kid who graduates who is middle
class, upper middle class. The expectation now is that they go into debt. And why should
that be when they’re paying back to society the gifts that they’ve been given through
their education? We’re training the workforce not only of Californians, but people who come
from all over the country, indeed from all over the world; take working class and middle
class kids at the undergraduate and graduate level and turn them into trained scientists,
engineers, scholars. We have to convince not only the legislature,
but the people of this state, this is where their money should be invested and however
the pie is divided, that share has shrunk unacceptably and so that needs to be enlarged.
And that’s the message that I’d like to give.