Education and globalization

We hear a lot about outsourcing and the loss of jobs to countries whose workers are paid less than American workers, but we don’t hear much about remedies for the situation. And yet there are steps that we can take to offset the inevitable negative impacts of globalization.

The most important one is to build on our strengths in education and research. One of the keys to American success is its superior system of relatively inexpensive public higher education that doubles as an incubator of cutting-edge research. These schools are generating the sophisticated new industries, products and services of the future—and with them the skilled technicians who will be able to do the work needed in them.

California, in particular, has benefited from its now 43-year-old commitment to providing a higher education for any adult who is qualified and wants one. But that commitment is now dangerously threatened by budget cuts. In fact, this year for the first time ever the University of California system had to renege on it, turning away thousands of students who otherwise were qualified.

The state university system is also facing cutbacks, as is the community college system, the very foundation of the state’s commitment to higher education. Fees are going up, and the number of class offerings is declining. The inevitable result is that fewer Californians will obtain college educations. This is exactly the wrong way to respond to the challenge of globalization.

Fortunately, a powerful new group comprised of business, civic and labor leaders emerged this week to counter the trend. Called the Campaign for College Opportunity and funded by $1.35 million in foundation grants, it has the goal of drumming up broad public support for investing in higher education. We wish it success. The economic health of the state is at stake.