By Rodolfo F. Acuña
An item appeared in the Los Angeles Times that the California State University System was going to cutback enrollment by 10,000 students because of the financial crisis. The CSU receives $2.97 billion of its budget from the state’s general fund and $1.5 billion from student fees. The cutback will make up for the deficit caused by the economic downfall. Of course, the burden will fall on minority communities whose schools are already below the standards of schools in white communities.
It is precisely because of these kind of occurrences that are all too frequent in our society that I get nauseated when politicians sing the praises of the free market and the injustice of the rich paying higher taxes. This crisis was not created by the poor, and since the mythical Reagan Era that was supposed to have helped the poor and the middle classes they have assumed a greater share of the taxes.
Consider that in 1960 the State of California paid the entire costs at state colleges. At the time sales taxes amounted to 3 percent and student fees were about $10 a semester. There were no local sales taxes. Today the combined rates are over 8 percent, which is a tax paid by working and middle class Californians.
Under the guise of no new taxes, the tax burden was shifted to students and their families, and today the cost of education has zoomed from $50 a semester in 1970 to over $1,000 a semester. We have gone from the state paying in full for state colleges and universities to students paying a third of the budget.
Now the system has come on a new way to balance the budget, and they will keep the amount that the state gives them in tact by reducing the number of students that they admit.
Thus far the public has been surprisingly quiet. It reminds me of when Ronald Reagan balanced his budget by closing down the state mental hospitals shifting the former inmates to outpatient care. Few cared that the homelessness in California multiplied.
“No new Taxes!”
Minorities were further hit by Proposition 13 and our public schools went into a tailspin.
These kinds of travesties continue because we let them happen. Politicos and the CSU managers shed crocodile tears, but as long as they get their pay raises it’s OK.
Students hungry for an education or, better still, a certificate that will get them a better life, struggle through college, often working full time jobs to pay for the costs of higher education. Their historical memory has been erased, and like the case of a science fiction novel, they accept their reality and memories of a time when education was a right.
Opportunity has been slowly eroded. There was a time when a student did not have to go to college. He or she could go to an auto plant and make a good living. Today, there ain’t no auto plants, and with education being privatized, we are all one step from homelessness.
The people in charge can do this because we are not involved, As long as they can see the cara de pendejo, they’ll keep on balancing their budgets on the backs of the working and middle classes. And we’ll live under the delusion that we live in the greatest society in the world.
Rodolfo F. Acuña, PhD, Chicana/o Studies Department, California State University at Northridge. Reprinted from LatinoLA.com