Home > Commentary > Funding a Well-Rounded Education in a “Public No More” University

Funding a Well-Rounded Education in a “Public No More” University

Andrew J. Policano and Gary C. Fethke have written a letter to the Sacramento Bee editor in a response to an editorial published on July 22nd, titled: “California’s Universities Can’t Give Up on a Well-Rounded Education.”

The July 22 editorial “California’s Universities Can’t Give Up on a Well-Rounded Education” misses the main point in our book “Public No More ….”  Well-rounded education is important, including the humanities. The issue is how to make program choices when there is a decline in resources. When universities were heavily subsidized, some areas of the campus adopted high-cost models of delivery with low student-faculty ratios.  Today, these areas need to offer some courses at lower cost. The alternative is to shrink or eliminate these programs.

Those offended by proposed cutbacks in liberal arts education will argue for the centrality and sanctity of their programs and will often suggest that somebody else should pay. Who?  Some areas deserve to be subsidized, but when students, taxpayers, private donors and other campus units collectively refuse to pay, isn’t this a clear indication of what matters? Is the answer more pleading to the legislature? It’s worth a try, but it’s unlikely to succeed in the current environment.  Should Mark Yudof attempt to push on a donor-less string?

Each university needs to decide what areas will be distinctive, what areas it will fund at a lower level, and what areas it will subsidize. This process should reinforce, not eliminate, a well-grounded education—but ultimately this education must be delivered in a financially sustainable way.

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