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Commentary | LETTERS TO THE TIMES

UC Still Is Part of the Dream

June 26, 2004

Re "The Dream in Transition," Opinion, June 20: Kevin Starr is wrong to describe the University of California as an elite institution, a public version of Stanford or Harvard. The UC offers a place to every student with an explicitly defined level of academic achievement and charges one-sixth the tuition of top private schools. Its enormous numbers of high-quality graduates are every bit as important to the operation of the state's scientific, business and social infrastructures as are those of the state's other great public university systems.

The core ideal of the state's original master plan was the combination of excellence and access for large numbers. At the UC, the children of regular citizens were to discover their own brilliance as they studied with Nobel Prize winners.

This philosophy of excellence for everybody, including transfer students from community colleges, gave the state the best economic decades in its history. The UC still upholds its end of the bargain: Of the 50 top research universities in the country, the six with the highest proportion of low-income students are all UC campuses. California's diverse and growing population needs more -- not less -- access to high-quality public education.

Christopher Newfield

Professor of English

UC Santa Barbara

I take issue with Starr's claim that Californians no longer wish to support the UC system. It is indeed shocking that a 44-year covenant should be broken in our time. He offers no evidence to support his belief that the state's smaller role in funding colleges is a reflection of taxpayer sentiment. As a Democrat, I believe funding education is the most important thing government can do to aid our economy. And as a Californian, I am very proud of our universities.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger complained during the recall that it was shameful that so many immigrant tech workers had be employed in California because our schools did not produce enough engineers. He promised that if he was elected that would never happen. But one of the first acts he committed as governor has been to defund our universities so that the rich can continue not to pay their fair share of the tax burden. Now many students are being turned away from California colleges because of budget cuts. But the rich already received a series of huge tax cuts from our Republican president (and during a time of war). It is time for our Republican "people's governor" to make the rich pay their share.

Debbie Henning

Anaheim

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