An alert reader points out that the chiefs of California's two university systems -- Mark Yudof of the University of California and Charles Reed of the California State University -- are making the same promise as students protest fee increases.
That promise? If the state funds the universities properly, we'll stop increasing tuition.
Reed told reporters Monday: "We won't have to increase tuition if the state provides adequate funding in next year's budget."
Yudof, in the LA Times, pledged that if state funding comes through, he won't raise tuition -- and will even add course sections and professors.
This is a smart, honest approach -- and focuses attention and blame for tuition hikes on Sacramento, where budgets are made. The universities have been forced to make cuts and raise tuition and ramp up private fundraising because of state cuts.
Of course, even Sacramento isn't the perfect target for protestors. Because even the legislators who vote for budgets cutting higher education don't want to make the cuts.
They have to cut because the budget system leaves them so little choice. Other big pieces of the budget -- especially K-12 education, prisons, and debt service -- have constitutional or initiative protections that make them much more difficult to cut. Higher education has no such protection.
So if you want to protest those at fault, you need to protest interest groups that have built this budget process -- and all the voters who approved these special protections.
But how do you protest the population of a state of 38 million?
That would be a good subject for study at California's public universities.