California lawmakers, who are the mirror image of our dysfunctional Congress at the state level,  are hoping to fix the financial and institutional meltdown of its bloated higher ed system by taking advantage of the new free online courses (MOOCs). In other words, the state university system is about to be shaken to its core because it is moving in a self-destructive, friction-producing direction. For higher education to survive, California must start moving in the same direction as private higher ed.

The moral of this story, about to be repeated nationally, is that government education (call it what it is) is fundamentally unsustainable, especially under the current behemoth residential campus and “research” university models. It’s been propped up for sometime now by the federal financial aid system, but with most states broke and federal funds exhausted, state-run, tax-funded higher education is in deep crisis. The “Big One” is coming to California higher ed sooner than later, and the foundations of the state system are so weak they won’t survive even the mildest quake.

The fault line is clear. The CA state system is headed south and draining the state budgets as it goes. Private colleges and universities (both non-profit and for-profit) understand there’s no free lunch and they have responded successfully to ever-changing market forces. The proposed solution being pushed by CA lawmakers is, at its root, an admission–even a confession–that their state-run, tax-funded system is a failure. They must now stop the friction, change direction and start moving in the same direction as the private sector. And that means stop being the socially and economically destructive force government education has become.

See the Chronicle’s report on the California legislative proposal:  California Shifts the Ground Under Higher Education.