NPR's Morning Edition did a story today about Santa Monica College, a community college in Santa Monica, CA. Since 2008, the College has been forced to eliminate over 1,000 classes in basic subjects like English and Math because of state budget cuts. The College's proposed solution? So-called "self funded" classes, or classes that the College will offer at quadruple the price of the regular community college classes! The students at Santa Monica College are fighting this plan, and it's not even clear that it is legal under CA law, but the reality is that this is what it has come to for public higher education in California. It's easy to be outraged at an administration that has come up with this crazy scheme, but it's also important to recognize that these college administrators have few viable options remaining.
Think this can't happen in Massachusetts? Think again. Over the last 11 years, state aid to public higher education in the Commonwealth has been cut by 32%. Everyone agrees that keeping higher education within reach of our residents is the only way to strengthen our economy and to prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future. And yet year after year the Governor and legislature are forced to cut public higher education because of inadequate revenue.
If we want to avoid wacky solutions like the one proposed by Santa Monica College, we must invest in higher education and in our communities. We cannot cut our way to greatness.