California fared well in the first attempt to run data on higher education value, in a system proposed by President Obama and the US Department of Education. Time magazine ran the numbers, and look who fell in the top ten on a balanced approach:

#1: UC Riverside
#2: UC San Diego
#4: UC Irvine
#7: UC Davis
#14: CSU Long Beach

That is awesome and truly reflects the system that was built by a lot of leaders, including Governor Jerry Brown’s father, Pat Brown. Pat Brown was the Governor who signed the Donahue Act, also known as the “Master Plan for Higher Education,” and his son, Jerry Brown, has a chance to restore it.

I try not to write about issues on which I lobby. And, I don’t lobby on UC and CSU funding, and community colleges are under Proposition 98. So, I can say, “Folks, we got a problem here.”

I abhor what has happened to the University of California. I meet with students all the time that now decide which careers to choose based on paying of their debt rather than how they best can contribute to the economy or society. And, students are now entertaining offers from out-of-state universities and are unlikely to come back.

As I wrote on March 18, I think international and out-of-state students should be on top of in-state residents by around 5,000 students (same share as 2000-01), rather than eroding the spots for in-state students. The May Revision to the budget next week is likely to have $2 billion in new revenues for next year, and that’s an easy $50 million fix. And, with the extra dough, the Legislature can buy down tuition. When I graduated from UC Davis law school in 2000, it cost $11,000 in required fees. It is now over $50,000. That needs to be fixed and the cost is “budget dust.”

We should reduce the cost of attending our universities, and count on those who attend and then make big money to pay it back in our already very progressive income tax system. For now, we are closing off public service opportunities (like district attorney, public defender, public health, and nonprofit jobs) for low income students. Being an assistant district attorney should not be an opportunity to gain a bullet point on a slate mailer, only available to someone of means who can pay off huge loans.

UC likes to talk a lot about the Blue and Gold plan, which is working well on attracting socio-economic diversity at the undergraduate level. I applaud the University for that, but the Legislature needs to wake up what has happened to the professional schools. They have been privatized, and a lot of current and former legislators never could have attended graduate school under the current structure.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (a great Democrat leader and a great Republican leader) were in the same law school class at my beloved UC Davis’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall School of Law. Their fees were the same as undergraduates, and now would be five times the cost. That is just not right, and we can fix it.

The fix is easy and affordable in this year’s budget. My friends in the Legislature (including the Speaker and Pro Tem who benefited from it), JUST DO IT. Use some of the new non-98 revenue to buy down professional fees.

Cross-posted at The Nooner.