Oh UC, Let’s Go Back to the ’60’s

Imagine a state where students are placed on a pedestal, where the professor is an “entrepreneur of learning” and where multiple universities rise up from the ground with a unified goal. All we need is to go back in time to 1964, when the UC system was ranked the best-balanced distinguished university in the nation.

The 1960s was a decade of responsibility and advancement. Not only were the state’s funds allocated to the growth of a new set of institutions, but these higher education institutions themselves were built with the goal of shaping youth of any socioeconomic status into the state’s progress makers.

Many have told the story of the birth of the UC system, yet few have given insight into its primary incentives and remodeling over the years as clear as California historian Kevin Starr who wrote “Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963.” In Starr’s research, we find that the UC President in the 1960s, Clark Kerr, fought to bring his vision of the “multiversity” to be California’s source of success.

Kerr believed in a higher education utopia that would serve economic, social, health and cultural needs of the state as well as the state’s defense. So while the Cold War economy during the time made the universities in the state a breeding ground for the arts and science of nuclear warfare, Kerr kept hold of his original goals to keep students on the road to success beyond the war, becoming lasting benefits to society and themselves.

The idea of the multiversity, spearheading the 1960 California Master Plan of Higher Education, valued the differing identities at each California campus, and the UC students were the future-makers of the state.

The start of such confusion of funds lies in the attitude of the state during the Cold War. According to Starr, “wartime mobilization brought to the industrial culture of California and to the other states where defense industries were located a range of social democratic benefits for workers such as the worker’s health care, child care, transportation pools, a growing equality for women in the workforce, and the beginning of better treatment for minorities.”

The question was this: could these workers’ benefits remain on such a central scale once the mobilizations of wartime were no longer in the picture? The Universities of California became Cold War Campuses, “devoted to the defense research and recovery of federal dollars.”

Once the late 1990s hit and the state could no longer allocate funds to such progress in UC research, the funds the state provided for each UC student also diminished quickly. According to the University of California student budget, fees for all students will increase by $822, bringing undergraduate tuition and fees to  $11,124. Since 1990, the share of funds the students pay has tripled from 13 percent of their education’s costs to 41 percent in 2010.

So while Kerr created a “multiversity” and a “city of infinite variety,” once there was no war in which to defend the state, funds were not as prevalent in the UC system. However, even with student funds decreasing, Kerr’s core of the university remained. At a multiversity, the professor became a researcher who taught. Research is what set the UC system apart, and it is what has carried the 1960s idea of higher education into the low-funded future.

The issues in funding continue with the state supporting such essential research, but failing to provide necessary funding for students. Society does not seem to see students as being as progressive a force as it did in the 1960’s. The paper trail starting from the growth of the UC system in the 1960s to the unbalanced allocation of today’s funds illustrates that the University of California model only half resembles Kerr’s original plan. Your fellow students say they attend UC Irvine for its research opportunities, and that was part of Kerr’s original goal. However, less and less students are attending universities.

The 1960 Master Plan maintained tuition-free education to California students. When California funds were less and less allocated to the California education system in the 1980s and 1990s, the no-tuition policy was history, and while financial aid increased for those who qualified, students began to understand a new definition of a public university.

As recorded by the Public Policy Institute of California, by 2025, the state will graduate only one-third the college-education workers it needs to be a state in progress. The funds are diminishing and students are looking to trade schools for a faster jump on their future. They strive to be able to be a productive benefit to society without accruing debt to last a lifetime.

Students hope that funding will not continue to fall, because with the decrease in student funds comes a doubt that students are essential to the productiveness of the state.

In the 1960s, students and the UC system were both placed on a pedestal. Now, the allocation of funds speaks wonders to the attitude of the state. Is there no longer room for Kerr’s dream? Is the UC system left to make do with funds that can no longer support students of all socioeconomic positions? Some UCI students have begun to consider the future of the UC system.

Amy Dao, First year criminology major:

“The state put the UCs on pedestals back then. We attend the UC so we can contribute to the world. The state is not allowing us the opportunity to contribute to the community if they make it so expensive to attend a UC.”

Brianna Palecek, First year undecided/undeclared major:

“Vocational training and trade schools are becoming more appealing because it’s a way to start working in the world without paying all this money and becoming stuck in debt. But at the UC, research automatically teaches you that there is always further to go, there is always more you can do.”

Kyle Squires, Third year business economics major:

“Every student can help; whether it is in the big picture or on a small scale, we can still make a difference. The UC system gives us the chance to make that difference, and that seems to be maintained from the original plan of the UC.”

Janis Chou, Fourth year film and media studies and Japanese majors:

“It seems to be the general norm to go to a university, whether there is debt involved or not. With a degree from a university, you are given a whole new set of opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise be introduced to. If the state will not provide as much student funding, then it should at least not raise student tuition.”