Thoughts on California…

It was good to be back in my native state last week. In spite of the drought, Pasadena had that certain lushness that no doubt enhances a Caltech education for those lucky undergraduates. That said, the traffic was as terrible as its ever been and my aggressive use of the carpool lanes was pretty much continuous.

As a state, California seems to be getting its act together again about public higher education. To my mind, investing tax dollars in the UC system is a no-brainer–it’s still the flagship of flagships among its brethren. If the Golden State can protect that golden egg, I think its future economy is going to be in really excellent shape.

On the private side, increasingly USC is comparable and complementary to Stanford. And of course Caltech is in a league of its own.

The agony of Illinois

My father was born in Springfield Illinois. Therefore it’s was some real pain that I bring to your attention Michael Powell’s piece in the New York Times.

What is happening in Illinois is definitively not universally happening in all of the states. That said, with New York, California and Rhode Island all also in trouble, one wonders what the correlation between a corruption index (constructed in any number of pretty obvious ways) and state budget distress might be. I suspect it would be high.

The implications for state institutions of higher education are significant. I’m really worried about the University of California, not only because I’m a Golden State native, but because I have close colleagues who, as faculty members, are enduring something significantly different from what they signed up for.

Hard times for California

These are very hard times for my native state, but this Guardian piece (hat tip Slate) sees better times ahead. I hope so.

I do think that the troubles can be traced back to when the (in)famous Proposition 13 was passed. The first of several financially consequential initiatives (a result of California’s constitutional affection for direct democratic decision making), it lead to the State becoming overly dependent upon economic growth for the delivery of basic services.