US Higher Education in Crisis – by Stephen Lendman
Diogenes called education “the foundation of every state.” Education reformer Horace Mann said the “common (public) school (is) the greatest discovery ever made by man.”
Education reform under Bush and Obama want public education made another business profit center. Doing so places bottom line priorities above teaching. At issue also is creating a two-tiered system for haves and have-nots, defined by race, ethnicity, social status and family income.
Separate and unequal education produces illiterate poor inner city kids. The American dream for growing millions is a sick joke, including at the higher education level.
College education once was affordable, even at America’s top schools. No longer. A recent Complete College America report on college completion rates shows most students don’t get degrees because of obstacles older generations didn’t face.
Issues include secondary school preparation, cost, and juggling of family, jobs and school for commuters. Only one-fourth of students live at school. Forty percent attend part-time.
Growing numbers seek two-year degrees. Over 60% of baccalaureate graduates complete course work in eight years. Over half seeking associate degrees require remedial courses. Over 20% in four-year programs need it. Those getting it are less likely to graduate.
Student needs are secondary to bottom line priorities. A key report theme is that “Time is the Enemy” of college completion. “The longer it takes, the more life gets in the way of success. Student’s lives fill up with jobs, relationships, marriages, children, and mortgages. Not surprisingly, college often gets left behind.”
Millions give up on higher education because of cost, making ends meet, onerous student loan obligations, and poor job prospects for graduates. Federal and state governments as well as school administrations aren’t helping.
Cost alone for many is too great to bear. States slashing higher education budgets compound the problem. In 2011, three dozen or more announced cuts exceeding $5 billion nationwide on top of others since 2008. In addition, sharp tuition and fee hikes are imposed in the face of less federal and state student aid.
As a result, growing thousands are entirely priced out, and millions face future debt bondage, often onerously for many years or life.
In 2011, California’s legislature cut 23% from higher education – a whopping $650 million, the most in state history. At the same time, double-digit tuition and fee increases were imposed. Two years ago, the University of California raised tuition costs 32%.
On November 16, California State University trustees approved a 9% tuition and fee hike. Student rage forced them to another site to avoid confrontation. Across the state, sharp increases are common. In 2012, more are planned.
University of California (UC) president Mark Yudof proposed 8 – 16% increases annually for the next four years. Tuition costs in 2011 jumped 18% over 2010. Instead of refunding education, state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown plan more cuts. No wonder student rage intensifies for good reason.
On November 18, police assaulted protesting UC Davis students, sitting peacefully on the ground, arms linked. One or more officers pepper-sprayed dozens in the face. Two or more students were hospitalized. Onlookers expressed outrage for the incident.
Responsibility falls on school chancellor Linda Katehi. Police acted on her orders. She warned students to back off so others on campus “could learn and work in a safe, secure environment without disruption.”
Earlier, police used truncheons against peacefully protesting UC Berkeley students. OWS ones are attacked nationwide with tear gas, pepper spray, mace, rubber bullets, batons, and other brutal methods. Thousands of arrests were made.
In full riot gear, dozens of police terrorized UC Davis students, threatening them with truncheons and paintball guns after pepper-spraying them directly in the face twice.
On November 17, about 100 students set up 40 tents to camp out on campus overnight. The next day, chancellor Katehi ordered them out or face removal. By mid-afternoon, police goons moved in, throwing protesters to the ground violently. Injuries resulted. Arrests followed. Students vowed to continue protesting for justice.
On November 21, thousands joined them supportively. On November 28, UC Regents will approve more draconian increases, putting higher education out of reach for many more California students. As a result, class boycotts were called.
UC Davis students also demanded Katehi resign. She refused, saying she feels “horrible” about what happened, then dismissively called for “all of the community to come together.”
OWS protests across America turned streets, parks, and other public areas into war zones. Social justice protesters on campus face similar challenges. Federal, state, local and school administrations are hostile and dismissive. Cops are unleashed to commit violence.
Wealth and power alone in America matter. Democracy never had a chance. The mother of all struggles continues for what students, working households, and others can only achieve by staying the course long-term and not backing off, despite brutal cops on the wrong side confronting them.
At issue is fighting for what’s right until it’s won, including affordable higher education for qualified students wanting it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.