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Tuesday, Mar 5, 2024

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JASON BOOTH Staff Reporter In the belief that a lack of higher education is a root cause of economic inequality, Rand Corp. is tapping some of the biggest names in the L.A. business community to come up with ideas for fixing California’s university system. The campaign will culminate in a roundtable forum to be held at the Getty Center in Brentwood in October. “We are trying to mobilize corporate leaders who are concerned about the growing trend of inequality in the state,” said Roger Benjamin, director of Rand’s education division. “We intend to get a consensus on reforms to take the state into the 21st century, in terms of improved education.” Rand is looking to recruit 15 or 16 top L.A. business leaders to participate in the forum, to address what Rand describes as the imminent financial crisis facing California universities. Researchers at the Santa Monica-based think tank predict that demand for higher education will sharply outpace public funding for universities over the next few years. As a result, it will become increasingly difficult for lower-income students to receive a college education, resulting in increased social unrest. The forum is scheduled to take place just three weeks before the November state elections and its results are to be presented to the gubernatorial candidates, Benjamin said. Already signed up for the forum are Bruce E. Karatz, chairman and chief executive of Kaufman & Broad Home Corp., and Barry Munitz, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust and former chancellor of the California State University system. Other business leaders expected to participate include Eli Broad, chairman of SunAmerica Inc., Mark Willes, chairman of Times Mirror Co., and John Cooke, executive vice president at Walt Disney Co., according to Munitz. The aim of the forum is to apply to education the same types of strategic solutions that have been used to revitalize corporate America in recent years. “During the recession of the 1990s, nearly every other component of life in California has been restructured, except for higher education,” said Munitz. “By and large, the educational community has been unwilling to put their assumptions on the table. They now have to know that neither their corporate nor political supporters will continue to throw money at the problem unless they are open to discussion.”

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