Charles B. Reed, chancellor for the last 14 years of the 23-campus California State University,
the nation’s largest university system, is retiring at the end of the year.


California’s public higher education system, once the envy of the world, is struggling. To survive in a way that continues to fulfill its mission, we need to break the mold on how it operates.

State budget cuts have stripped our universities to the bone. And the promise of nearly free, accessible higher education has all but disappeared as cuts have forced tuition increases. What was once a rite of passage for all qualified young people is increasingly becoming untenable for many prospective students.

Some lucky people may have the option to simply choose another university, perhaps a private institution. But many more students, particularly those from low-income and traditionally underserved backgrounds, may have no choice but to forgo a university degree. This situation has caused those of us who have spent our careers advocating for accessible public higher education to ask: Is this the direction our state — and sooner or later our country — should be taking?