google-site-verification: googlea33552291e834fff.html Education: The Governor's Inaugural Address: More Higher Ed Clich�s

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Governor's Inaugural Address: More Higher Ed Clich�s

Governor Brown gave his 4th and final inaugural address today and said very little about higher education.  Instead, he focused attention on other issues: K-12 education, criminal justice, the environment, and his favorite issue of all--controlling spending.  It is certainly possible to see his lack of focus as a positive thing for the state's public colleges and universities.  His recent ideas have not been great, and relative neglect might lower the temperature to allow serious thinking on how to raise educational quality in the state's higher education institutions.

Unfortunately, what little he did say is not encouraging.  Here are his comments on higher education:
With respect to education beyond high school, California is blessed with a rich and diverse system. Its many elements serve a vast diversity of talents and interests. While excellence is their business, affordability and timely completion is their imperative. As I�ve said before, I will not make the students of California the default financiers of our colleges and universities. To meet our goals, everyone has to do their part: the state, the students and the professors. Each separate institution cannot be all things to all people, but the system in its breadth and diversity, through real cooperation among its segments, can well provide what Californians need and desire.
Several points stand out here: the displacement of "excellence" (admittedly a vacuous term) by "timely completion"; the implicit opposition to further tuition hikes coupled with a lack of real commitment to address the problem of tuition through state funding; and a belief in the inadequacy of the campus's efforts.  "To meet our goals, he said, "everyone has to do their part: the state, the students, and the professors." Since Gov. Brown has already indicated that he believes the state is doing enough and that students should not be asked to do more,  then what is left? The professors, who must be blocking timely completion and affordability by not teaching enough students and not going online enough. 

Here then is the problem with Brown's approach to higher education: in his mind the problem is not that students do not get enough time to work with faculty; it is that they get too much time. Instead of figuring out a way to fund an educational experience that enables deeper learning and higher skills he wants to speed up the process and make it more Amazon-like than it already is. As many have pointed out, higher education has been using adjuncting and massification to create teaching "efficiencies" for thirty years.  They have reduced degree productivity and quality, and cannot now suddenly increase them.

Dealing with a 1970s-model of educational efficiency will be one challenge for 2015.


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