"Suppose," mused state Treasurer Bill Lockyer in a widely distributed report on California's fiscal future, that "the state eliminated all its direct general fund support from the UC system, allowing it to set its own budget and raise revenues to replace the state's share"...
As California's iconic Master Plan for Higher Education marks its 50th anniversary this year, and the state struggles to balance its books, variations of Lockyer's "privatization" question are being posed more frequently.
"Should higher education be treated as a public good," asks Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco, professor of medicine, in a position paper posted on a faculty association Web site last August, "or should it be viewed as a private good to be paid for by its customers (students and their families) and voluntary private donors?" In Sacramento, it's not so much an ideological issue as a financial one.
Because it's been this way for so long, we assume that higher education is a public good. On the surface, it's hard to see how that assumption shouldn't be revisited from time to time.