And they would have gotten away with it too,

...if it weren't for that meddling Reagan.

The administration of the California State Universities has announced that it plans to charge tuition next year. The University of California will likely follow suit.

Since the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education, Californians have largely not paid tuition to attend California's public colleges and universities. They have, of course, paid fees. More on that in a bit.

This move by CSU comes at a time when higher education in the US is under attack, as is the very notion of government.

Colleges and universities do a lot of different things:

1. They engineer new, patentable technologies that are used to fight heart disease and people in Asia.
2. They train the next generation of widget technologists.
3. They push students and society to reconsider what they think they know, and expand (often conflicting) lines of thought.

Our schools still have the money to do the first of those three things (markets hurrah!). We seem to be struggling widget-wise, which makes zero sense even by the logic of bootstraps (but here we are!). However, it's that last bit that got potential California students in trouble.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan defeated Pat Brown (the guy who signed the master plan) to become California's 33rd governor. He looked at the academy (notably Berkeley) and saw a bunch of freeloading, widget-smoking commies who were belly-aching about how people in Asia were people, Black people were people, lady people were people, poor people were people, and so on. He wanted to make those widget smokers pay.

In 1970, State Senator Al Rodda surveyed Reagan's smashing success, which included a doubling the fees charged to attend UC in just two years.

As of this writing, the fees to attend UC hover around $10000, with the fees to attend CSU institutions around $4200. While this wasn't all Reagan, the man certainly deserves some credit.

The reality is that in the US, we're still 'cleaning up the mess at Berkeley.'

Cuts to funding in higher education are not merely about !!bootstraps!!. The anti-government, pro-bootstrap argument doesn't even make sense in the context of higher education (or most things, for that matter). When it comes to de-funding higher education, I think a different framing of the issue is called for.

I don't know about you, but students in my classes frequently get back papers covered with colorful notations like "what do you mean by this?", "you need to refine this", "such as....?", "you should give (more) examples to back up your argument." Historically, that's one of the things I'm theoretically paid for-- thinking critically and getting others to do the same.

Thus, it's hardly surprising that college campuses are places where some folks espouse ideas such as:

We should stop going to war to serve the interests of your friends' corporations.

We should stop putting so many people in jail to serve the interests of your friends' corporations.

And a recent favorite:

Global warming is real, and we need to do something about it yesterday, even if it hurts the interests of your friends' corporations.

Alas, the State of California is poised to end its experiment in tuition-free higher education (depending on your perspective, tuition may actually constitute the experiment) and I blame Reagan and a never-ending line of corporate interests.

The state of California may not have the money, but that's by design.

My nation does have the money to pay for universal free higher education, yet it chooses not to. I humbly suggest that the end of California's fifty-year run is as good a time as any to reassess our priorities.

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