Under proposed legislation in California, public colleges would have to give students credit for online classes they take from private schools.
The bill, proposed by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, aims to ease the state’s campus overcrowding issues, wherein thousands of students are shut out of packed classes they need to graduate.
“No college student should be denied the right to complete their education because they could not get a seat in the course they needed in order to graduate,” Steinberg said at a news teleconference. “This is not technology for technology’s sake. It addresses a real challenge.”
According to the Oakland Tribune, “SB520 would create approved online courses for the roughly 50 high-demand, lower-level classes that routinely put students on waiting lists.”
High-demand courses are in short supply, particularly at community colleges. Last fall, more than three-quarters of California’s 112 community colleges had wait lists, averaging 7,000 students each.
These new courses — which would be accepted by the UC, CSU and community college systems — would need approval by a faculty panel representing the three systems.
The law would apply only to students who otherwise would be put on waiting lists for courses at their home campuses. The bill is vague about the costs and who would bear them.
A new law that took effect Jan. 1 in California allows students who are not in the country legally access to a variety of state-funded college tuition financial aid.
Assistance such as community college fee waivers, Cal Grants and similar aid is now open to non-legal residents, with awards of up to $12,200 a year for low- and middle-income students.
To be eligible for the money, students must graduate from a California high school after attending for at least three years, and meet financial and academic standards.
Supporters of the law downplay its financial significance in this cash-strapped state, citing widely circulated statistics that less than 1 percent of students in the California State University, University of California and community college systems are undocumented. They also insist that the new law, part of the California Dream Act, won’t eat into the pool of college aid given annually to legal citizens.
However the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analysis Office reports that the law will likely cost Californians $65 million a year by 2016. Critics say the law rewards breaking the rules and is an insult to foreign students who enter the country legally.
“We should reward those who respect our process instead of creating new incentives for those who don’t,” Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly said in a statement to the Riverside-based Press-Enterprise, which reported that about 20,000 people – less than one percent of college students – are expected to apply for the state-funded Cal Grants.
But Donnelly told the newspaper the law will take away money from students who are U.S. citizens, and that it goes against the wishes of California voters, citing a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll which found 55 percent of voters opposed the law and 40 percent supported it.
The poll also showed a huge ethnic divide, with 79 percent of Latinos supporting the law, compared with 30 percent of white supporters, the Press-Enterprise notes.
The latest law granting undocumented students Cal Grants and similar aid joins a growing number of perks for illegal immigrants in California. They are already eligible for reduced in-state tuition at campuses statewide, as state law offers tuition breaks to any student who has attended a California high school for three years, regardless of their immigration status.
What’s more, as of Jan. 1, 2012, they were granted access to private college scholarships funneled through public universities.
State immigration advocates such as Luz Gallegos argue that children should not be punished for the sins of their parents.
“There’s so much potential for them,” she told the Press-Enterprise. “It’s not their fault their parents brought them here undocumented.”
Others see it differently.
Kristen Williamson, a spokeswoman for Federation for American Immigration Reform, told the Los Angeles Times the law is “a reckless use of taxpayer money.” And Republican Assemblyman Curt Hagman told the newspaper it “absolutely sends the wrong message. It says if you violate the law, it’s OK.”
Fix contributor Nicole Swinford is a student at Chapman University.
Among those eight contributors – six of them gave exclusively to President Barack Obama or other Democrats, while only one reported a donation to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the database shows. Another regent gave to both parties.
By the numbers, seven UC regents since 2011 have donated a total of $22,300 to Democratic political causes: $6,000 to Obama, and another $16,300 to various other Democrats’ political campaigns in California and across the nation, according to the database’s most recent records.
In that same two-year period, Republican politicians did not fare so well, with far fewer regents in support – only two – and much less cash received at $12,000. The Romney camp gained $7,500 thanks to one UC regent, while another regent who gave to Democrats also gifted $4,500 to various Republicans’ political campaigns, according to the database.
A somewhat similar pattern could be found among the 16 appointed California University System trustees who reported political donations of $200 or more in 2011 and this year, the database shows.
Of that group, five made such donations: three of whom gave exclusively to Obama and other Democrats; a fourth who gave to Republican political action groups; and a final trustee offering a nod to Republican/Libertarian Ron Paul.
Specifically, the three Democrat-supporting trustees gave a total of $1,000 to Obama and another $3,250 to various Democratic campaigns in that time span, while the Republican supporter came in at $1,900 in donations. The Paul fan on the dais gave $200 to that campaign.
Combining stats from both boards, of the 32 campus leaders, 13 – or about 40 percent – made political contributions of $200 or more since 2011, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Of those donators, roughly 70 percent supported Obama and the Democrats, about 23 percent backed Romney and Republicans, and one appointee gave to both parties.
The California State University board of trustees oversees curricular development and other broad policy and financial matters for the 23-campus system and its nearly 427,000 students. The regents of the University of California system are charged with similar oversight of their 10-campus, 220,000-student system.
The analysis only included the 32 currently appointed UC/CSU regents and trustees listed on the systems’ websites, and did not take into account vacancies, the boards’ ex officio members, or faculty, staff and student representatives.
The OpenSecrets.org database includes Federal Election Commission records of receipts from individuals who contribute at least $200. Smaller contributions are not part of the public record.
Over a hundred faculty, students, and alumni of the California State University system have signed an open letter opposing the return of a study abroad program in Israel–but critics say their initiative, if successful, would limit the academic freedom of students. The letter is addressed to CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and cites Israel’s human rights record, lack of a comparable study abroad program in Palestine, safety concerns, and budget cuts at CSU as reasons for opposing the program.
“CSU participation with the government of Israel in the proposed study abroad program could be interpreted as an endorsement of the international crime of apartheid,” the letter states.
David Klein, a professor of mathematics at CSU Northridge and the letter’s primary author, maintained that it was morally necessary to express solidarity with human rights.
“Many other countries in the world that commit human rights violations face sanctions by the U.S. government,” he said. “Israel is the exception.”
Some people in the U.S. tend to gloss over Israel’s human rights record, according to Klein.
“Any criticism of Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing, or other human rights violations is met with extreme hostility from pro-Israel supporters in the U.S. who demand to know why other countries are not being criticized instead,” said Klein, who has received hate mail and threats since the letter was released. “U.S. citizens may criticize the U.S., France, or any other country, but not Israel without paying a personal price.”
But some took issue with Klein’s invocation of apartheid.
“Constant use of the apartheid reference is completely false,” said Dr. Samuel Edelman, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. “In South Africa there was public policy and government behind apartheid, there is no such thing in Israel.”
Edelman also disagreed with the letter’s contention that it was unsafe for students in Israel.
“The idea that it is unsafe to study abroad in Israel is patently ridiculous and an attempt to delegitimize Israel,” said Dr. Samuel Edelman. “In fact, [studying in Israel] is safer than Mexico where students have been raped, robbed or molested.”
SPME issued a letter signed by 64 scholars commending the chancellors of CSU for reinstating the study abroad program on November 30.
Others were pleased that CSU had announced a resumption of the study abroad program. Kenneth Marcus, executive vice president of the Jewish Institute for Community and Research, said students who want to study in Israel should be allowed to do so.
“The efforts to curtail Israel study programs is an infringement on the academic freedom of students to learn in a manner that is not unreasonably limited by the political doctrines of their professors,” he said.
He also said that though human rights violations occur in countries all over the world–many with worse records than Israel–universities are not in the habit of banning study abroad programs in those countries because it defeats the very purpose of study abroad, which is to “broaden students‘ intellectual horizons and to give them a sense of what life is like in very different places.”
“After all, most countries do have human rights problems, and college students should not be forced to live in a bubble,” he said.
When asked about the possible benefits of students learning about Israel firsthand, and whether academic freedom was applicable in this case, Klein declined to comment. The letter itself called for a similar program in Palestinian territories if CSU were to keep the Israel program.
Edelman sees the program as a tremendous opportunity for students to study the region and its conflicts.
“Israel is a bastion of human rights and democracy, the only functioning democracy in the middle east,” said Edelman. “What better way to let students learn about the conflict?”
Emily Shrader is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a contributor to The College Fix.
There’s probably not a very good time to announce that a college president is going to be making $100,000 more than the year before. The California State University System probably picked one of the worst.
Literally moments after the system’s Board of Trustees announced that it was going to increase next fall’s tuition by 12 percent, an additional $294 a semester, the board turned around and approved a salary of $400,000 for the new president of San Diego State, Elliot Hirschman — $350,000 in state funds and $50,000 from the campus’s foundation — a bump of more than $100,000 from what his predecessor made last year.
“There’s never a good time to raise presidents’ pay,” said Michael Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the Cal State system. “But when there are immediate needs, whether taboo or not, we have to fill them.”
California has a number of big problems: illegal immigration, budget deficits, tuition hikes for already strapped families. All these problems combine into one: in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
The California Supreme Court has affirmed the state program granting in-state tuition to “undocumented students,” all while tuition hikes are imminent the University of California and the California State University systems (8 percent and 15 percent, respectively). As a California public university student, all I can do is watch our the continued budget difficulties and our growing appeasement to those without U.S. citizenship.