The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a good article by Tom Lutz on the state of declining education in this country.
While the University of California system is being hit particularly hard, the trends are the same at public institutions everywhere, including here at the University of Vermont (class sizes increasing, faculty positions not being replaced, positions being cut, etc.).
Those faculty who do leave for better jobs, or retire, or die in harness, are not being replaced. Staff who leave are not being replaced—the positions of those who are left are simply “reorganized.” Students at Riverside are having increasing trouble getting the classes they need to graduate, and many of the classes they get will be crowded beyond responsible limits. Departments are being forced to abandon optimal class-size limits for classes two, three, and five times as large.
The library has virtually stopped buying books. We are on a race to become a mediocre university at best, and if the $500-million of proposed cuts in the university system turns into a billion dollars, as they are now discussing in Sacramento, we will be over. The billion-dollar cut translates into thousands of classes across the system. It means creative-writing workshops with 50 students, or, if we insist on maintaining reasonable workshop size, eight or 10 years to graduation for our majors. [. . .]
Why is this happening? Political demagoguery and corruption. Thirty-five years ago, the University of California received 6.6 percent of the state budget and prisons 3 percent. Now the university gets 2.2 percent and the prison-industrial complex gets 7.4 percent. The Legislature is taking the money that should be used to educate the best of its citizens and using it to enrich the people who make a profit from imprisoning the poorest. The percentage of the cost of higher education provided by the state has been cut in half, cut in half again, and is on the verge of getting cut in half a third time.
[. . .]
This is the end of quality. And why? Because a few very wealthy people are protecting their wealth from taxes, taxes considered reasonable not only everywhere else in the developed world, but also considered reasonable in America until 20 years ago.
I hope the students finally get angry. I hope they get active. I hope hundreds of thousands of them call and write their legislators, get out in the streets, take back their university. [...]