California state institutions at risk, say protesters

March 11, 2010

Academics and students have united to protest against the "privatisation" of California's public higher education system, with the backing of a university chancellor.

Demonstrations were held last week as part of a "National Day of Action to Defend Public Education", with California forming the focus.

The University of California and California State University (CSU) will both increase their student fees by 32 per cent, as public funding falls amid the state's budget crisis.

The day of action was backed by Charles B. Reed, the chancellor of California State. In a statement, he said the university "supports the efforts of our students, faculty and staff to bring awareness about the importance of higher education in California. It is critical that legislators in Sacramento (California's state capital) hear from businesses and the community about the importance of CSU."

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's governor, met with administrators and students from the two universities and community colleges ahead of the protests.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Mr Schwarzenegger said he wants permanent funding sources for higher education in California, and he called on the legislature to make changes to the state's budget and tax system to do so.

In January, Linda Katehi, chancellor of the University of California, Davis, said it was "time for the US to reconsider leaving planning for higher education and funding of its national universities to the trepidation of short-sighted state politics".

She told the World Universities Forum in Davos that systematic disinvestment in California began with the limits on state taxation approved by voters in 1978.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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