Public higher education is struggling financially throughout the United States, and the University of California is no exception. Right here at UC Berkeley we are in the midst of a $150 million budget crisis that has created tension throughout the campus and is forcing us to wrestle with the challenge of trying to deliver the best education in the world with ever-dwindling resources. Our financial struggles, moreover, have not been borne evenly: surprising increases in spending coupled with steadily decreasing state funding have been met with rapid increases in tuition, creating levels of student debt never before seen and decreasing access to the public university for all but the most elite members of society. Taking a political economy approach, we will look at the forces that are shaping public higher education today and try to uncover how we ended up in the situation in which we now find ourselves, what possibilities the future might hold, and what role each of us might play in bringing about those futures.
While finishing his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering, Khalid Kadir began studying the complex role that engineering expertise plays in the politics of international development and poverty alleviation. This combination of engineering and social science research led to his current interdisciplinary teaching on global poverty, political economy, and environmental engineering. As a lecturer at Berkeley, Khalid was selected as a Chancellor’s Public Scholar in 2013; awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service in 2014; and this past year, he received UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the campus’s most prestigious honor for teaching.