I wonder how much time Gov. Jerry Brown spends on California’s public university campuses, chatting up students and professors and getting grounded in some reality, before he comes out with his get-tough policies on how they should be run. Sometimes it seems like it must be very little time indeed, if any at all.
His latest idea is that state funding of Cal State and the University of California should be tied to how many students they graduate within four years.
That makes sense in theory. It’s not great for students to hang around forever. It raises the chances that they’ll drop out without taking a degree, and if they’ve already gained all the credits they need to graduate, they’re taking up taxpayer-subsidized slots that other students need.
Back when a Cal State or UC education was practically cost-free, hanging on to college was just something a lot of young people did rather than face the work world. That’s changed; at more than $25,000 a year for room, board, tuition and books, students aren’t doing a lot of hanging around just for fun. They’re trying to get into overfilled classes or they’re in particularly demanding majors—or double majors, or a major plus a minor—with rigorous requirements that might mean taking fewer courses per semester, or just having to take more courses, period. They might be taking on the challenge of an honors thesis, a yearlong course that often involves heavy reading, research and writing, but is particularly good preparation for graduate school. Students who have transferred from another college often need a few extra courses to catch up to the new school’s requirements.