California: The System Just Doesn’t Work

Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, recently gave the commencement address at his alma mater, San Jose State. Often the commencement address by a guest speaker focuses on all the changes that have taken place since the guest speaker was in college. Technology is a big one; we’re also so much more connected than we used to be. Look at all these opportunities colleges graduates have today.

Well not according to Lopez. Here’s the biggest difference he saw. According to an article about the commencement address he wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

In my day, the two pathways to upward mobility were living-wage jobs for unskilled laborers and the availability of a college degree at an affordable price. “This has been the engine that has driven the California economy,” I told 3,000 honors students and their families in a San Jose State auditorium.

Decade after decade, students of all races from poor and middle-class families across the state and around the world — often the first in their families to attend college — earned degrees and became teachers, nurses, engineers and entrepreneurs.

But this, frankly, just isn’t true anymore. Upward mobility is difficult now. The hill has gotten steeper:

And now that great institution is being turned into a mediocrity by budget cuts. State universities have been forced to limit course offerings and dump staff while jacking up fees, and they’ve turned away students in droves while preparing for the possibility of even deeper cuts.

As Lopez, who received an honorary doctorate from San Jose, explained, “you don’t need a doctorate to see the lunacy in that.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer