Professors’ Pensions Restrict Access to UC Education for Poorest Californians
by Brian Brady
UC-Davis students are being pepper sprayed for chalking protests to tuition increases. At UC Berkeley, guns were drawn and billy clubs were used on the protesting students. While the media attributed this use of violence to Republicans’ resistance to tax cuts, The OC Register finally had the courage to discuss the root cause of the problem: Professors’ pension costs are driving up tuition fees in the UC system.
The UC system, including medical centers and national laboratories, is scrambling to shore up its pension fund as it prepares for a wave of retirements and tackles a roughly $10 billion unfunded liability. The UC Retirement Plan’s huge deficit was created by investment losses during the global economic crisis – and the nearly two decades when campuses, employees and the state did not contribute any money toward pensions.
In addition to complete fiscal irresponsibility, the free-riders in the UC professorial corps are demographically challenged. Many are exiting the halls of academia to cash in on the retirement bonanza before the piper calls. What is the solution which the professorial corps suggests ? Get the State to contribute to their Cadillac pension and health care plans:
UC officials want the state to make pension contributions, as it does for the California State University and California Community Colleges systems. But the state, facing its own financial problems, hasn’t provided money for UC pensions for more than 20 years.
This amounts to nothing more than a subsidy, from poor people, to the upper-middle class. The UC system is now a haven for the upper-middle -class and foreign students rather than working class California kids. I dont think this is what Thomas Jeferson had in mind when he discussed public funding of education.
Why does college cost so much? Pell grants and an expanded student loan program introduced monopoly money to a system which prided itself on “service to a noble cause”. Faced with such largesse, the professorial corps accelerated tenure, expanded compensation, and padded benefits, creating a career out of what could have been noble service, from accomplished people, at the apex of their other careers. Careerism then, was a byproduct of the introduction of a distorted market.
My father attended La Salle College, for about $500/year, in the late ’50s. He was able to pay for his education each summer by working on a delivery truck. The Christian Brothers worked hard to deliver a quality education, for the son of an immigrant milkman, by drawing upon the accomplished graduates’ sense of Noblesse Oblige. In short, the Christian Brothers and retired (and returning) graduates saw value to ensuring that poor kids received a quality education. They didn’t do it for the pension.
By the time I matriculated, at a university not unlike my father’s, tuition costs had risen some 600% (over a 28-year period). Today (28 years later), those tuition costs have risen another 600%. My father was able to fund his education from summer work. I was able to fund mine with summer work and small student loans. Today, college students must encumber themselves into a six-figure debt to earn a college degree. Is it any wonder that, in the middle of each 28-year period, a major federal education subsidy was introduced?
What’s the solution for the UC system?
- Reform the professorial corps’ pensions, health care plans, and compensation
- Reverse the “easy tenure” policies which have created complacency in the professorial corps and open full professor positions to competition.
- Encourage more part-time professors, with real private sector experience, rather than careerists from academia. Students will learn more from practitioners than theoriticians.
- Remove access to Pell grants and student loans for publicly-funded universities (that’s double taxation). Offer more work-study opportunities, internships with the private-sector, and drive tution costs down by making UC, Cal-State, and JC schools compete on price.
If you’re a frustrated high school graduate, who is finding it hard to attend college this fall because of costs, you would do well to stop berating your neighbors for refusing to pay more in taxes. The real reason you can’t attend college this fall is that the professorial corps screwed up their retirement and health care plans…
…so you just gotta pay more
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Brian Brady is a small business owner who lives in Solana Beach. He is a director for Stop Taxing Us, the taxpayer advocacy and tea party group. There, he crafted the “Promise to California taxpayers,” a no new tax pledge candidates make. He is a Member-Elect of the SDGOP Central Committee.