Quality Education Comes at a Cost

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In Tuesday Sept. 15 editorial, "The Breaking Point," the writer made the case for faculty furloughs to be continued in order to reduce the need to raise tuition. This suggestion merely advances one goal at the expense of another.

As the author pointed out, standards and costs are directly correlated.In the current reality of constantly decreasing funds from the state, maintaining-not to mention raising-academic standards will lead to higher tuition.

Cutting costs, whether through furloughs or hiring freezes or the elimination of land-line telephones, must mean either lowering standards, reducing opportunities or limiting choice. The UC Board of Regents recognize this and have tried to close the nearly one billion dollar budget gap in a way that maintains the academic integrity of the UC system.

Students have been asked to pay more of the costs that our university's academic excellence requires, and faculty, administrators and other workers have been asked to make sacrifices so the burden on the students may be lessened. The sacrifices made by the faculty can only last so long and go so far. Extending furloughs, in order to lessen the tuition burden on students, will undermine the very institution they seek access to.

Professors are both a standard and necessary condition for quality of education. The best professors both attract the top talent and produce it. Professors of the quality UC Berkeley is able to attract have alternative options. But for whatever reason, our professors choose to teach here. They will not continue to make that choice if they are continually forced to take pay cuts (for some these cuts are from salaries that could probably be much larger at another university), forced to take vacation, forced to pinch pennies on copies, forced to use their cell phones instead of office phones or forced to work in the dark to save electricity.

At some point, many, perhaps too many, of the faculty will have had enough and whatever reasons drew them to Berkeley will not be sufficient to justify staying on a campus with such severe budget cuts. Even if many, or most, or nearly all the professors are firmly entrenched and no amount of pay cuts or furloughs can drive them away from their beloved lattes at the Free Speech Movement Café, attracting the best new talent will become increasingly difficult. That, a stagnant and aging faculty, is a sure way to ruin a university.

Spreading the burden, as the editorial suggests, will keep more students in the UC system, but it will not be the UC system we know today. The Regents have asked all that they can of the faculty, and they know it. That is why ending the furlough program is so important and it is the only reason such tremendous tuition hikes are being proposed.

The author of the editorial from Sept. 15th seemed to be simply exhausted with fee increases and suffering from a severe case of sticker shock. I encourage the author to keep everything in perspective.

Really, $10,000 is only a number. Like many of the citizens who are hyperventilating over the idea of a trillion dollar healthcare overhaul only because of the unfamiliarity with the number attached to it, the author and many students seem to be reacting to the idea of a five digit tuition bill. If only the proposed increase had stopped at $9,999, then everything would be fine.

The numbers in the editorial tell us several things about our university and our state. First, a UC education used to be really, really cheap. For years UC Berkeley has provided the only public education that can even be spoken of as rivaling the Ivy League, and it did it for a fraction of the cost.

Even at $10,000, the campus is still educating us at a fraction of the cost, students are getting a relative bargain. The reason the percentage increases are so high is because where we started was so low. The increases also tell us about how the state values the UC system.

None of the increases would be necessary if the state, and I mean voters and representatives, were as committed to education as we students are. What choice does the UC President have but to suggest raising tuition when he faces a billion dollar shortfall, a shortfall he had virtually no time to prepare for?

I suggest students, including Daily Cal editors, devote their time to hashing out the truly difficult decisions. Budget cuts are a zero sum game. Someone must win and someone must lose. The decisions on who wins and who loses are value choices that cannot be avoided.

Do we value low tuition or do we value academic quality? Do we value being a public institution or do we value financial stability and independence? It is the public v. quasi-public v. private debate that needs the most attention. Why is remaining public so vital, especially if admission qualifications and standards remained the same? Should Berkeley and other UC campuses raise tuition to a point they are insulated from the whims of the legislature but continue to siphon off enough public money to keep tuition lower than comparable private schools. Let's debate these issues, not complain that the cost of an education is being unfairly placed on the recipients of that education.


James Morris is a UC Berkeley student. Send your replies to [email protected]

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