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proposal is headed for the Legislature, where it faces an uncertain
future. There is currently some talk among lawmakers of recommending
a fee decrease in the opening gambit of the budget game.
the issue is resolved this time around, the governor's compact itself
-- on which the wrangling is predicted -- leaves some feeling uneasy.
Jess Bravin, a Boalt Hall law student who is the student representative
on the Board of Regents, points out that the agreement with Wilson
is of recent origin and temporary duration. "We speak of the ‘compact'
like we're talking about the Mayflower Compact," says Bravin. "The
most important compact is the one made between the state of California
and California families in 1868, when UC was established. In 1992
or so we decided to pass on to families the cost of instruction.
But this is a very significant violation of a much earlier and more
important compact." For both ideological and economic reasons, some
education experts are beginning to argue that UC and CSU should
lower their fees. "The fees shouldn't be kept up," says William
Pickens, a private-education consultant and a former budget officer
from CSU who is respected in the Legislature. "They're a narcotic
-- a very bad narcotic." Pickens maintains that access to college
for the poor and middle class would be improved by lowering fees.
"Low tuition," he says, "provides a clear message to all high school
students and their parents: If you prepare yourself for college,
financial cost will not stand in your way."
ongoing debate over student fees only hints at the larger economic
challenges facing the UC system, and all of higher education in
California, in the years to come. A huge new generation of college
students will descend on the universities and colleges in the next
decade in what many are calling "Tidal Wave II." That the students
are coming is certain: They are in the elementary and secondary
schools now. But the inundation will come at a time when budget
experts predict there will be no funds left for higher education
because the prisons, welfare, Medi-Cal and K-12 education will have
sapped the entire state budget.