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July 31, 2004

Budget Compromise: 11th Hour U-Cal Admissions For 1600

FROM FISCALLY-CHALLENGED CALIFORNIA comes word of good news for a change. The deficit-beleaguered state university system, one of the primary victims of a $14 billion (that’s with a “b”) shortfall in California’s massive $103 billion budget, will benefit from a rare gesture of compromise and bipartisan accord in Sacramento.

Guvnah Ahnold Schwarzenegger, flexing strong-arm politicking skills befitting his manly Hollywood persona, has managed to broker a restoration of $12 million in funding for state education--enough to admit (actually, re-admit) some 1600 students to U-Cal schools this fall.

It’s better than nothing, but the 11th hour offer (school starts in three weeks) has evoked criticism, frustration and anger among thousands of students who have been yo-yoed back and forth due to the fiscal crisis.

In order to save their fair share of funding to help bring the budget into line, the state university system had previously agreed to reduce freshman enrollments by 10% for the 2004-5 school year. This drastic step helped the University of California system to cut its budget by 7.9% ($228 million) and the Cal-State system by 9% ($240 million).

The necessity of these cuts were the mother of a highly creative accept-me-now, take-me-later “guaranteed transfer option” to placate 7600 students desiring entrance at the state schools. The “guaranteed transfer option” assures a spot at a University of California or Cal-State school if a student spends his / her first two years at a community college.

Translated: accept-me-now, take-me-later.

Many students who were very interested in U-Cal and Cal-State schools were not so interested in the community college option, so they have made arrangements to attend other four year colleges.

To switch on short notice is proving very difficult for the 1600 students who are taking up the offer, as they will basically be taking what’s left (not much) in terms of class choices.

One student made arrangements to attend Santa Monica College for two years, and then on to UCLA with the “guaranteed transfer option.” Now, she has the chance to attend UCLA for four years. She acknowledged that she could save money by starting her studies at Santa Monica College and said she would discuss that issue with her parents.

But, she said, "If they're willing to pay, I'm going to run to UCLA."

Education is already happening. Many California students are gaining real-life learning in the start-stop reality of flexibility.

(this 392 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—has been distilled from a 1034 word article in the Los Angeles Times of 7-28-04 and a 510 word article in the Chronicle of Higher Education of 7-29-04)