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California's Budget Crisis and Higher Education

On the latest Global Pulse episode, host Erin Coker reviews world coverage of the budget crises in both California and Greece. Watch the episode below and share your thoughts!
Going to the DMV is never a joyful experience. Due to the budget crisis the trip has become even more excruciating. The State of California has closed DMV offices on the first and third Friday of every month in an effort to save money. This means the offices are more crowded on operating days. This also means it takes even longer for the staff to call your magic number. This might not sound like much, but when you’ve been flipping through a tattered three month-old edition of Better Home and Gardens for two hours, it can feel like a lifetime.

Californians are having to learn to get used to these inconveniences. The budget crisis has affected virtually every interaction citizens have with the state. Bus schedules are slower. State employees are getting their salaries cut. And while all Californians are affected to one degree or another, perhaps the most impacted are students of the state's public universities.

When I started attending San Francisco State in 2004, semester student fees for residents was $1,256.00. In the past six years that number has nearly doubled to $2,370.00. The problem isn’t just that students are now paying more for their education, but that they’re getting less in return. Luckily I had finished school by the end of 2008, before most of the effects of the budget cuts had really been felt. However, for many of my friends still studying at SFSU the budget cuts have taken a toll.

Nicole Dixon is a Cell and Molecular Biology major who started work on her degree in 2004. She’s found it impossible to complete her degree within four years due to budget cuts. “I haven’t been able to get the classes I need each semester. When I did get into classes it was because I had to fight my way in and plead with professors to let me crash them.” She’s also noticed that the budget cuts have affected the quality of her education, “We’ve had fewer classes. Professors have to get all the material crammed into a semester with five less instruction days due to furloughs.”

Even the classrooms themselves have been impacted by the budget crisis. “There aren’t enough chairs in classes. Professors won’t print handouts anymore. There aren’t even markers in some classes to write on the whiteboard,” Dixon said. When asked if she would do it all again she remarked, “Knowing that I couldn’t graduate in at least six years seems unacceptable for a four-year degree. I would have rather gone somewhere where I knew I could get my classes. I thought I’d be in dental school by now.” Nicole isn’t alone. Many Californians are beginning to look for education elsewhere, as the public universities in California continue to face budget cuts.

With attendance being capped at many Cal State Universities, many students don’t even have access to the educational opportunity I had only a few years ago. As bad as California’s economy is now, how will California look twenty years down the line when it doesn’t have the same educated workforce that made it such an innovative place to begin with? The deficit is huge and cuts have to be made, but education is an important investment. It’s not only an investment for students who want better jobs, but also for a state that must continue to nurture its human capital.



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