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.

University of California feels the pain

ScienceInsider has the details of the latest combination of cuts and furloughs proposed for our colleagues at UC here. It’s not a pretty story. Many of us consider the UC system to be the premier public university in the United States. It can’t stay that way for long if the great state of California doesn’t figure out some way to address its structural budget problems (which long pre-date the current crisis in my opinion). As a California native, and with many friends as faculty in the system, I really feel their pain.