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Report praises SSU for core classes, criticizes building costs

  • A new student center is in the process of being built, Friday March 2, 2012 at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Sonoma State University has a strong set of core classes and stands out because it is spending less on administration and more on education, but it also comes close to impinging on free speech.

Those are the conclusions of a report about the California State University and University of California systems released today by a Washington D.C., nonprofit group that works on higher education issues.

Faculty leaders who briefly reviewed the report said the criticisms it raised are valid issues, but not new ones. Also, they said, it covered too much ground in pursuit of a particular agenda.

"It's too much of a hodgepodge," said faculty chairwoman Margaret Purser, an anthropology professor. She described it — largely because of its recommendations — as "a political statement in a very political year about a very political issue."

The "Best Laid Plans" report, produced by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, is a 72-page examination of education, intellectual diversity, cost and governance at California's public universities.

"Holding tuition down is neither liberal nor conservative, and maintaining high education standards is neither liberal nor conservative," said Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy at the Washington-based group.

The report generally concludes that one of the nation's key public higher education systems suffers from "waste, bloat and excess," and it is critical of rising tuition costs.

The report calls for increased use of Internet-based classes, year-round classes and fewer building projects. In an interview, Poliakoff cited SSU's new student center, now under construction, as an example of questionable projects for which students shoulder the cost.

"California needs that spirit now of innovation, courage and creativity to break away from old models and serve the most important of their goals, which is to educate students," he said.

"The investment in brick and mortar does not seem to be what should be their priority."

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