CA Gov. pushes higher ed to reform model, offer more online courses

California’s economy has suffered a lot in the last five years, as its property values plummeted, unemployment rates soared, and chronic public debt threatened to take down venerable institutions and municipalities. More than any other system, public education has borne the brunt of these massive fiscal corrections. It’s not sustainable and returning Gov. Jerry Brown understands this, as his successful push for Proposition 30, a tax increase on the wealthiest that could pump as much as $6 billion annually into public education, shows.

But even as he worked to secure more funds for public education, Brown has been cognizant and vocal about the fact that schools, particularly at the university level, must gird themselves for the reality that they will have to do more with less and thus make some structural changes.

“The rising cost of higher education not only threatens affordability, it also threatens the quality of California’s system of higher education as it relies on a model that is not sustainable,” Brown during a news conference last Thursday, where he released his annual budget plan.

The University of California system alone has raised tuition and fees by about $5600 since 2007, bringing its annual cost to just over $12,000 for 2013-2014. Brown has offered a number of ways that the state’s higher education system can move into the 21st century, including by beefing up its online course offerings.

While online college courses have gotten a lot of media attention lately— even garnering this ranking list by U.S. News & World Reportnot everyone is happy with this move en masse.

Online education is not a cure-all, to be sure, as the Center for Public Education discovered in its report, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools,” although that study focused on the expansion of online education at the K-12 level. But the bottomline is while there are many caveats regarding online courses, it’s clear they are here to stay. As a current graduate student, who has taken many such classes, I have two things to say about the success or failure of online education: it depends largely on what the instructor and student are bringing to the table. Gee, where have we heard that before?

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