Justice Goodwin Liu at the UC Irvine Symposium on Higher Education Access

Symposium on Higher Education Access
Friday, September 25, 2015
University of California, Irvine

The keynote speaker was Justice Goodwin Liu of the California Supreme Court. Among his qualifications on education, he was Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Education, and on the American Bar Association Task Force on Financing Legal Education. He has served on the Board of Trustees of Stanford University, and the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

He showed many informative slides, which I cannot reproduce here. Here are a brief rephrasing of his main comments from my notes.

There is a Crisis of Affordability of higher education for students from lower income families. People are asking “Does Higher Education Pay Off?” (it does for those who complete it). What will be the effect of online learning on the conventional college picture?


Janet Napolitano, President of the UC, calls it higher education in motion, not a crisis. Higher education matters. It is not a monolith.

Between two and four year colleges, there are 1625 public, 1675 private non-profit, and 1424 for-profit.

Student debt is less important for higher earning universities.

University educations have been described as Utility U. or Utopia U., while universities try to blend these two outlooks. One size does not fit all students or financial aid analysis.
There is a dearth of low income students at elite schools. This is important as these schools raise leaders.

In states that have banned affirmative action, there is a lack of black students (this includes California).

A vast majority of students are upper income.

UC Irvine placed first in the NY Times access rankings (see my previous post).

UC Irvine has more Pell Grants than all eight Eastern elite combined.

Every year there are 25,000 – 35,000 high-achieving, low income students, including those of ethnicity and diversity. More than half of them do not apply to the elite schools. They do not know that they would have less to pay at highly selective schools than at the ones that they choose (Hosby and Avery, 2013). Some are rural and have no other students for guidance. They would have more leadership opportunities and more earnings potential at the highly select colleges. Advising such students is a small cost.
California has studied the cost of leverage points to achieve college success.

20% of students drop out in high school.
40% of high school graduates do not go on to college.
50% of students at Cal State campuses do not complete.
Increasing completions at Cal State is the cheapest way to get more college graduates.
Next expensive is increasing transfer students to the UC campuses.
The most expensive is to increase the college enrollment.
California in 2025 will need one million more college graduates than we are now generating.

One third of the US population have college degrees.
Political candidates have discussed the “college for all” concept.
If we were to increase the college graduation rate to 50% of the population in the next 25 years, it would still leave half without a college degree.

We should provide technical training for non-college students.
That will provide “Pathways to Prosperity” for them. Some middle skill occupations pay well such as nurses, lab techs, contractors, electricians, and plumbers.

Students benefit from two year degrees or some college.
We could do more with certificate programs, online courses, and community colleges.
Tennessee and Oregon have made community colleges free.

We should make these opportunities available for low income families.
Of the lowest quartile income high achievers, 40% go on to low SAT schools. This is from a lack of information on financial aids at the more elite schools.
We need more high school counselors. Presently we have only one per 900 students in California.

A number of students visit schools outside California, but prefer schools closer to home.
Bob Schwartz writes about other countries, that they have not stigmatized vocational education.

A question was asked whether Globalizing Institutions would impact poorer students.
(I asked that of a UCI administrator at the break, and was told that more foreign students would impact California student admittance. The official UC line is that the increased tuition paid by out-of-state students will help support expansion of the institutions. A mixture of foreign students also helps educate US students, as well as capturing more talent to the State of California.  I looked at admittance data for UC Berkeley, and found that the same number of California students were admitted every year as the number of foreign students increased. )

The following talks were interesting, but got much more detailed. They also applied highly to law school admissions.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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