California students walkout against commercialization of education

Even state university students and faculty in California are walking out in protest to the present state government’s policy of privatizing state public higher education institutions, from UC Berkeley to California State University.

Budget cuts, tuition hikes, limited admissions, corporate tie-ups, these are phrases that sound all too familiar to students from state universities in the Philippines. It is a reinforcement of the assertion that commercialization of public higher education is a product of a global free-market philosophy.

The budget cuts in California and in the Philippines take on very similar forms, as do their consequences. State policies (Higher Education Compact in California, Medium Term Higher Education Development Plan in the Philippines) declare that state universities should generate their own income from privatization and tuition hikes. Consequently, state funding is reduced as school administrators raise tuition and limit certain student services. It’s even worse in the University of California where salaries are also being slashed and enrollment/admissions are being limited.

In California as it is in the Philippines, despite gradual state abandonment of public higher education institutions, enrollment in state universities is increasing, students continue to flock to public institutions and their share in the total enrollment of all college students is growing larger by the year. The situation is more serious in California where public institutions enroll 79% of all college and university students. The share in the Philippines is 35% in 2008 (from only 10% in 1980). These figures should actually reinforce the policy of strengthening support to public higher education institutions instead of cutting subsidies.

In California, the ratio of state subsidy and internally-generated income is almost at 50% : 50%. In the Philippines, it is at more or less at 70% : 30% (on its way to 30% : 70%). State universities are being forced to rely less on state subsidy and more on internally-generated income.

Both California and Philippine governments conveniently dismiss the idea that higher education is integral in the road to prosperity of a state or a nation. Professionals, from doctors, engineers and even artists drive a vibrant economy. It has helped lead California to the economic prosperity it experiences while it is yet to drive the Philippines into progress. It is no doubt that denying the youth of affordable, if not free access to tertiary education is a tragic detriment to the growth of a nation. I may not have any readers from UC, but I would like to express my support to the multi-sectoral, system-wide strike in the University of California. You are not alone in your fight for accessible state-sponsored tertiary education.

Resources:
Berkeley Alliance Against the Cuts
Keep California’s Promise
UC Faculty Walkout
UC Student Walkout

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