Gov. Jerry Brown prodded University of California regents today to pursue online course offerings to reduce costs, saying the state's premier university system must "get more grounded" in its approach to education.
The Democratic governor's remarks came at a meeting of the UC's governing board, which postponed a vote on fee increases at Brown's request.
Brown had said in his campaign to raise taxes that his initiative, Proposition 30, would avert tuition increases this year. The measure's passage, however, does not prevent universities from raising other fees.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had accused Brown during the campaign of making misleading statements about the extent to which tuition increases could be avoided. When Newsom pressed UC administrators today about the potential for future increases, Brown hardly contradicted him.
Brown said "the lieutenant governor's let the cat out of the bag" regarding choices facing policymakers. He characterized the university system as one requiring higher fees, additional general fund support or changes within the system to reduce costs.
"Tuition increases are not avoided by anything less than heroic efforts to make some changes that I think can be made if we have the political will," Brown said.
Newsom applauded Brown for his "remarkable leadership."
Proponents of online education say it could raise revenue and expand access to higher education. Many professors have resisted offering online-only degrees, questioning the effectiveness of a web-based education.
Brown, 74, said now that he is "a little older," he is respectful of tradition.
"I appreciate the durability of the university and its ways," he said.
However, Brown compared the challenge facing universities to a challenge facing newspapers and the U.S. Postal Service. Even as other people were talking during the meeting, he said, he consulted Google on his cellphone.
He called on regents to summon experts in online education to a meeting to address them.
"I think we have to get more grounded here," Brown said. "We're going to have to have a little bit of disruption here."