UC President: “I don’t think everyone should go [to college].”

Interviewed yesterday on American Public Media’s Marketplace program, Mark Yudof, president of the University of California system, discussed the fiscal health of higher education in his state.

The California state legislature has approved a budget and the governor has pitched a ballot proposition to raise taxes to pay for public education – including higher education, but the failure of either could be “disastrous” for the UC system and for a good portion of its students, particularly those who can’t pay out of pocket but don’t qualify for need-based assistance.

Of course, at $12,000 a year, UC tuition doesn’t come near the price of the most expensive schools in the U.S., but the UC system is also a very large organization serving a wonderfully diverse set of students, and its vaunted quality doesn’t come cheap to the state.

President Yudof readily admits that the old funding scheme is “pretty much at the end of its line.”

And maybe that isn’t such bad news.

Yudof indicates that innovative programs — online learning initiatives among them — promise to trim the marginal costs and help UC schools deliver a more efficient education to ever-increasing numbers of students. Yet even as he affirms that California will do its utmost to provide education to those who want it at a price they are able to pay, Yudof allows that college, as we have conceived it, just might not be for everyone.

We at the Saylor Foundation have been running with that notion for several years now. And while alternatives to college often (and appropriately) take the form of vocational programs or apprenticeships, we’ve built a suite of courses that allows students to explore the traditional four-year trajectory a dozen times over, for no money down and whatever time and effort they are willing to expend.

Not everyone may be able to go to college. Not everyone may want to. Just ask Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, who also put his two cents in at Marketplace. And though our courseware emerges from an abiding respect for the classic liberal arts education, we want to support every student’s path — from the wildly original to the decidedly traditional.

We wish the University of California system, and especially its students, the very best. Like President Yudof, we look toward an education system in which “everybody gets a chance.”

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