Mozena’s vision for a college education in California
Can we really solve California’s fiscal crisis?
Yes. Here's one solution that will save California taxpayers billions of dollars.
Close all of the State of California university and college campuses and create one online-only state university.
Huh? Stay with me here.
California has always been a trend-setter. Here's a chance to continue that tradition.
Transitioning to online education will enable California students to have a better education for less money.
This plan would save California taxpayers billions of dollars and give students a chance to be taught by the best professors in the nation.
With California in dire financial straits, reducing the costs of state university and college systems would be a relief to taxpayers.
Considering the duplication in numerous universities and colleges, reducing administrators, professors and staff would save a lot of money.
California raised in-state tuition for 2009-10 by 7.4 percent to 10 percent. As tuition rates rise, students are paying more but getting less.
Besides being much cheaper, online education offers many advantages over the traditional campus-centered system. It promotes the development of independence and intellectual maturity rather than prolonging childhood by shackling students to a brick and mortar college.
So much of what goes on at the UC campus-based colleges at the moment is highly impersonal. When classes consist of more than 30 students, and rise to as many as 500 at many state schools, most students don't even speak directly to their professors, either inside or outside of class. Most likely, they are being tutored and graded by teaching assistants.
Online education can change all this, promoting more direct interaction between students and their instructors. Electronic social networking is becoming more and more sophisticated with sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the tools used in online education are becoming more varied and easy to use.
Professors are now posting their articles on Blackboard, www.blackboard.com, an increasingly popular facilitator of e-learning and creator of virtual learning environments, or on their own class and course websites for free.
Amazon's Kindle, a wireless e-book reader launched in late 2007, followed by Sony's e-reader, Barnes & Noble's Nook, and now Apple's ipad are also being used for such purposes and will soon become as the ipod is to audio cassettes and CDs.
With online education, students can have interactive conversations with the best professors, via a split computer screen, with the professor on one side and on the other the student asking the question from anywhere in the state, like video conferencing.
Imagine what a thrill this will be for the students to be able to interact directly with the most eminent professors in the nation, who will no longer be just famous names on the title page of a book in their school library, but real professors who are available to instruct them and answer their questions.
Why should the best professors be confined only to the elite schools, UC-Berkeley for example, rather than CSU-San Marcos, where only a relative handful of students can benefit from their knowledge and expertise? Who would not want to learn basketball from LA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant or golf from Tiger Woods or acting from Tom Hanks or Angelina Jolie?
In return, these professors should be paid on the same scale as top professional athletes and actors.
There would be no more need for tenure for professors. Mediocre professors could be laid off. We only want the best and brightest for our children.
For most businesses, labor costs should be kept below 20 percent of sales. This applies to education, also. Weeding out the lower-performing professors will save the state money.
Of course, for now, there will still be areas of study such as the biological sciences or chemistry that will need laboratories and brick and mortar classroom learning. But there is still plenty of learning to be done outside of labs, so much in these disciplines can be taught online as well.
Moreover, private colleges and universities like Stanford, USC and Loyola Marymount University (LMU) can develop specialties in those disciplines. But as far as the social sciences and the liberal arts are concerned, they can all be taught online. All testing could be done instantly online. This will enable the state to considerably reduce the number and size of its public colleges and universities.
In fact, given the success of California, some states might opt out of funding collegiate education and completely close down their college and university campuses, while California might decide to increase the offerings of their online-only colleges so that students could obtain a wide range of undergraduate or graduate degrees.
Another advantage of online education is that it fosters competition. Students do not have to enroll in courses offered by their hometown college. They can enroll anywhere in the United States. And if we are truly thinking globally for education, we can have the best professors from anywhere in the world teaching our undergraduate and graduate students online.
Think about the possibilities. Our students could take classes from world-renowned professors, not only at Harvard and Yale, but at Oxford University or the University of Tokyo, or anywhere, without even leaving their homes. It would be wonderful to have all these great minds available to our students.
American students could be foreign exchange students without even leaving the country, and vice versa.
This is the way of the future.
California universities and colleges are bloated behemoths due to new buildings and housing being placed on campuses and the duplication of administrators, professors and staff. These institutions need to be trimmed. Moreover, there are too many campus monopolies on books, food, housing and other services. These functions can easily be handled by online bookstores or on-campus mom-and-pop stores at much reduced costs.
This would end the scandal of overcharging on college textbooks by the large publishers, who charge up to $150 for a textbook. The profits made by these companies are as outrageous as those made by the oil companies.
Students should pay for information, not paper and binding. Textbooks and course materials should all be available electronically, becoming e-texts and e-materials for students’ online college classes.
If students still crave a hardcover book, they can print it on their home printer and bind it too. Back in the mid-90's, I wrote to the CEOs of corporations such as Hewlett Packer that manufacture laser and ink-jet printers suggesting they combine a thermal or tape binder with their printers to create instant books. Then students would be able to print out the book and drop it the printer for an instant tape bind.
With Google digitizing whole libraries, university and college libraries could be closed, and cities and counties could also start to consider closing their brick-and-mortar libraries.
It is only a matter of time before electronic books entirely replace traditional books. The traditional library, with thousands of shelves of books taking up large amounts of space and needing large funds to maintain, will be a thing of the past.
Yet another advantage of online education is that it makes students safer. Our colleges and universities are not the safe havens many people assume they are. Campus violence is a nationwide problem. A White Paper on campus violence issued by the American College Health Association in 2005 found a high rate of rapes, assaults, physical harassment, taunting, stalking, and suicide amongst students. The White Paper reported that between 1995 and 2002, college students ages 18-24, full-time and part-time at public and private institutions, were victims of approximately 479,000 violent crimes annually.
In short, in this era of electronic technology, there no longer needs to be a physical location for any college or university. Online education presents an alternative form of education for those who are self-motivated, for stay-at-home parents, for those who need more flexible schedules, and also those who seek greater safety. Students enrolled in online education would be able to earn degrees at all levels, from associate degrees all the way to Ph.Ds, without having to set foot on any campus.
Sure, there are already online universities but nothing is as far-reaching and has the depth and scope of the online universities that I envision, where you would not even put your foot on a college campus. With these online universities, you would pay for your tuition and books all online, and once you completed your courses for your undergraduate or graduate degree, you could in effect print out your diploma on your home computer on nice parchment paper, frame it, and post it on your wall in your home study or office.
One final thought. Think about the savings on gas. Think about ending the headache of finding a parking space at a university and avoiding getting a parking ticket. It would also relieve the freeways and city streets of much congestion.
Times of crisis are also opportunities to think big about we are going and how we can better meet the future.
I hope that the citizens will see my vision for the future of 21st-century collegiate education in California by writing in my name, Steven Paul Mozena as Governor on June 8, 2010. Then we can move swiftly forward in promoting online education for all.
In light of the current economic crisis in California, not only would the change save billions of dollars, but our children would receive a better college education from the brightest professors that would also be less expensive for them and for us, their parents and California taxpayers.
It’s time to go beyond the 20th century idea of college education and enter the electronic world of the 21st century and the online-only college.
This can be done by writing in Steven Paul Mozena as Governor for California.
While this transition to the electronic information age is going on, I would like to see the following specific ideas incorporated in college education:
It is essential that colleges should not have to offer remedial courses to make up for an inferior and inadequate education that their students have received in grade school and high school. All college freshmen should be ready to tackle college-level work.
All college students should register to vote at the same time as they enroll in classes in their freshman year. Registration should be strongly encouraged, as it will help to reverse the steady decline in the percentage of the electorate that bothers to vote.
There should also be a mandatory class on the fundamentals of democracy and the U.S. political system. Students should be educated about their civic responsibilities in a democracy. If we don't learn to perpetuate our way of life, it will wither away and die. We must stay united.
In terms of administration, universities and colleges should opt out of the student housing, apparel, merchandise and food business. These should be operated by private businesses in university districts. Most university districts have died, killing off small mom and pop businesses, because the colleges have relentlessly pursued a vertically integrated monopoly of businesses catering to the students on campus. In doing so, they have lost the sole purpose and focus of the academic institution, which is to teach our children. Again, I believe strongly that the purpose of a college education is to provide an education, not the superfluous amenities many state colleges now provide.
I also believe that a centralized collegiate online bookstore system should be set up for states nationwide. In the case of California, because of its size, I would set up two distribution centers for southern and northern California which would distribute books both electronically and/or by mailing them directly to students statewide.
Mozena's Vision For Education: Elementary to High School
I am concerned about the lamentable state of education in California and the nation today. My response to the recent unveiling of the California school summer reading program is that something far more substantial is needed to fix an educational system that is turning out functional illiterates rather than young people who have the knowledge and the skills to successfully deal with life's many challenges.
My solution to California’s educational woes is twofold. First, the school day must be extended to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This will not only allow a more thorough learning schedule, it will also reduce the stress on parents and enable them both to hold down full-time jobs. In today's economic environment, in which it is common for both parents, or a single parent, to work in order to support the children, the longer day for kids would be extremely helpful.
Second, the school year must be extended. The 180 days kids spend in school is not enough. Research has shown that during the long summer break they regress, which means they forget the knowledge and skills that they learned. Schooling should be year round.
The introduction of mandatory all-year schooling would address the problem of regression, as well as cultivating life skills. It would also reduce gang activity, some of which arises from boredom, and other vacation mischief. We need structure in our schools.
These are the main lines of my proposal:
- participation in team sports, right through to the senior year, should be mandatory. Team sports build social skills and the ability to be a team player in other contexts.
- participation in academic clubs like speech, chemistry or drama would be a must, since these also develop teamwork.
- a foreign language and culture class to begin in primary school, that teaches Chinese and another language that is new to the student. In other words, if the family speaks Spanish, the kids must learn a language other than Spanish, in addition to English.
- a business class in which students learn how to write checks and manage their accounts, including how to manage a credit card. They should be taught financial responsibility and financial honesty, and why maintaining a positive credit rating is necessary for purchasing a car and eventually a home. In addition, the class should include the skills learned in the business program Junior Achievement.
- there should also be a life-skills program. This should instruct boys and girls in the fundamentals of good hygiene, good manners, cooking, and home economics. This would also teach the principles of sound nutrition, which would be a step towards combating the growing obesity among the young.
- since many students do not know how to study, there would be a mandatory class in study skills. Students need to learn the self-discipline that leads to success in life.
- a mandatory outdoor environmental education course, in which students learn about such topics as animals, water, plants, and soil. This would include many of the topics usually covered at summer camps. Not all parents can afford to send their children to camp, but under my proposal, all children would have the same opportunities.
- starting as early as nursery school and continuing through 12th grade, there should be physical education courses, including swimming classes from beginner to lifesaver. This will reduce the number of child deaths by drowning. Athletics, gymnastics and other forms of exercise should also be offered, to promote health and reduce obesity.
- more emphasis on online learning, making sure there is no digital divide. All children should have computers, and the best and brightest teachers in the state at all grade levels should teach online courses. This would create more equal educational opportunity, enabling students in impoverished school districts to have access to the best minds in the state. It would also cultivate the kids¹ ability to work independently.
- mandatory civics or political science class in which students would learn about our political system as well as those of other nations. It would emphasize the necessity of participating in the processes of democracy. This could be done by holding mock elections that would mirror elections taking place at state and federal level. This would educate students in the vital political issues of the day. For California students, this class would include instruction about the California constitution, including knowledge about how ballot initiatives are created and an evaluation of the achievements of recent ballot initiatives.
- the state should maintain a 24-hour study help web site.
- there should be a yearly comprehensive exam before students are allowed to pass to the next grade level.
- an overall review of the pay and benefits packages for teachers, and regular reviews of teacher performance. Teachers should not be underpaid, but they should not be allowed to continue in their jobs if they are performing badly. Incompetent teachers are harmful to the development of our children.
Like adults, children would be permitted to request a week or two weeks off during the calendar year for vacation, if a parent wished. Additionally, the teachers could have their two-week vacations or whatever they wished, and a substitute who was competent in the field would take their place.
Finally, the State's education website should show all its daily expenditures and revenues, broken down to each school and grade levels. This would create fiscal transparency and honesty in government spending on education. I would also like to see the California Lottery, which allocates considerable funds to education, post its finances to the Web daily. See www.postthefinances.com
I hope Californian educational leaders will support this proposal, which will raise educational standards in the state and produce better citizens. It could also act as a model for adoption by other states.