Speaker Atkins has taken aim at the University of California, suggesting that it is abrogating its responsibility to admit qualified California students, thus threatening the quality of our future work force.

In fact the danger comes from her office, the State Legislature, as well as the Governor.

The UC and State College systems suffered remarkably drastic cuts of state funding during the great recession. State support fell from the 50% level in the 1990’s, to today’s level of 12% at UC. Campus leadership went to work finding savings in operational efficiencies, developing philanthropy and other sources of funds beyond Federal grants, to sustain the excellence of the system. This was in the face of predation by private colleges on our best teachers and researchers.

These campus staffs have been doing yeoman’s work maintaining and improving access for students of poor and middle incomes with creative financial aid, sustaining what has always been a source of UC pride, being a launching pad for individual economic mobility and an engine of state economic growth. Much of the tax revenue state government gets to spend is derived from the influence of the university on the state’s economy.

Now the economy has improved and state coffers are filling, but the Speaker, and the Governor refuse to restore the funding cuts of the last decade. In this, they are truly making a choice to disinvest in higher education. Rather than shoulder their responsibility to an institution that bears the name of the state, they starve it, then criticize UC for employing all means within its powers to survive, so it can respond to admission demands in a way we can all be proud.

Achieving diversity in a student body has always been part of the UC mission. Out-of-state or country students do pay more. In fact they pay the actual value of a UC education, while in-state students pay less, for what used to be a state subsidized education. In essence, the Speaker and the Governor have taken much of that subsidy away, declaring by strong inference, that they are the ones who don’t care about the future work force of California. It is a hypocritical position.

State funding should be restored. While, increasing tuition is not a first choice, it is a survival choice, absent restoration of funding. Yet because of creative financial aid assistance packages, students whose families can afford it will probably experience most of its effects.

The Speaker and the Governor are making a politically manipulative war on the University of California. We have not seen the likes of this since then Governor Reagan used UC events to pander to voters in the 60’s for political gain.

There are reasons for concern and a history of harm when government politicizes UC. If the Governor and Speaker want to usurp the Regents’ constitutional prerogative by starving the UC system into submission, we should be worried. The Speaker has demonstrated that she has an agenda, resistant to facts, and designed for political gain at the expense of the gems of higher learning that she, along with others in government, inherited and must steward responsibly.

Now that support is at 12%, the politicians want 100% control. At this level, one could ask just when does UC cease being genuinely state supported?