California’s young people deserve the best education they can get at a reasonable price. At a time when the average debt for a college graduate is between $30,000 and $60,000, I recently proposed a simple, yet revolutionary idea — a $10,000 California State University bachelor’s degree.
By creating closer coordination between high schools, community colleges and CSU campuses, I believe we can achieve the $10,000 degree for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
While many students are excited about this bill, CSU’s chancellor, Timothy B. White, was less receptive. In fact, he was downright dismissive, saying the $10,000 degree was nothing more than a “sound bite,” though Texas and Florida are pursuing similar efforts. In Texas, 10 colleges signed on to their governor’s plan and all 23 public colleges in Florida accepted the challenge.
Businesses such as Microsoft have called on the nation to strengthen K-12 STEM education in our schools to better prepare students for college and careers. Last week, Microsoft publicly announced support for this bill.
Perhaps the chancellor can pick up the phone and tell the following people what he thinks about offering students an affordable STEM education:
· Tell President Barack Obama that one of the goals in his State of the Union address — to integrate science and math programs among high schools, community colleges and four-year colleges so students can graduate faster — is just another sound bite.
· Tell college students who discovered that tuition at a CSU has almost tripled in the past 10 years that it is just another sound bite.
· Tell the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which found eight of the top 10 paying jobs for college graduates are those who majored in STEM-related fields, that it is just a sound bite.
· Tell STEM students who want to make a starting salary of $70,000 (according to the Department of Homeland Security) that it is just another sound bite.
· Tell America’s high-tech companies that it is a sound bite, even as they import 269,000 workers from other countries because there aren’t enough Americans with the necessary science and math skills.
· Finally, he should tell the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that it was nothing more than a sound bite when it said that improving academic coordination between schools “makes a lot of sense.”
Instead of exploring in-depth the merits of my idea, the chancellor and other CSU leaders went to the capitol recently to ask for more money from taxpayers. While that is part of his $380,000 job, the chancellor should demonstrate more imaginative leadership besides rattling a tin cup and repeating the refrain “We need more money.”
I welcome all constructive feedback about my proposal, including from those who live in the ivory tower. Such dialogue can improve ideas and reflect the diversity of our great state. But our students deserve better than a flippant response to an idea that could benefit them immensely. It is time for CSU’s leaders to follow the advice they give to students — to dream boldly and think outside the box.