In his March 25 CALmatters column, Dan Walters uses a long-shot bill in the Legislature to highlight one of his favorite topics: California’s struggling and contentious higher education system.

Walters focuses on Assembly Bill 1936, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D- Campbell). The bill would establish an Office of Higher Education Performance and Accountability, which would assist in “master planning” the future of the UC, CSU and community college systems.

Despite the seeming innocuousness of establishing a bureaucratic group with few official binding duties, Walters points out that Low’s two prior efforts (and five by other legislators) to create the group have failed, and this attempt is likely to meet the same fate.

Higher Ed is One of California’s Toughest Issues

Walters writes that this inability to pass basic legislation on the topic exemplifies what makes this “one of the state’s thorniest issues.”

As he explains, there is plenty of need for improvements to our higher education system in affordability, accessibility and quality. California also faces a potential crisis because the state fails to graduate enough students each year. It’s a failure that could hurt the state’s economy, especially those sectors requiring employees with college degrees.

In past discussions, Walters referred to the ongoing competition for territory between the CSUs, UCs and community colleges. Once again, he highlights the fact that leaders from each group essentially want to maintain the status quo, rather than push for reforms that would benefit students.

Higher Ed Master Plan is Out of Date

Instead of accepting changes, he writes, they instead use the 60-year-old master plan as a justification for stagnation.

Walters explains that conditions have shifted considerably since the plan was implemented and emphasizes the need for an update. AB 1936 would at least be a step in the right direction, he argues.

Walters also points out that Gov. Jerry Brown gutted the group overseeing the master plan by denying it funding in 2011. However, Brown has, since then, noted a need for a similar group like the one appears AB 1936 would create.

Walters appears to criticize Brown for his inaction since then, pointing to Brown’s justification that “the stakeholders” in higher education should be the ones to work things out.

Fixing Problem Will Fall to Next Governor

His closing line is particularly critical: “the higher education conundrum will fall to the next governor, who will either rise to the occasion or continue Brown’s legacy of neglect.”

To read Walters full explanation, click here: Politicians ignore looming higher ed crisis

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