It's spring break and your child is home from college. Looking up momentarily from her smartphone, she mentions that she took a cool online course offered by some private company and got full college credit.
The problem is that your child attends a University of California campus, one of the nation's pre-eminent university systems, for which you're paying $30,000 in annual tuition.
But if legislation proposed last week by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg becomes law, this scenario may become reality, not just in the UC system but in the California State University and California Community College systems as well.
Steinberg's proposal is designed to relieve the bottlenecks in the state's three college systems by allowing students to take online courses called MOOCs, or massive open online courses, from third-party entities. It would be the first time the Legislature has allowed public institutions to offer credit for courses not part of their own systems.
Students at state colleges and universities have had difficulties getting classes, but watering down the overall educational experience isn't the way to fix it. Families that pay those huge fees have every right to expect that classes will be taught, or at least supervised, by qualified professors. The Legislature should not be outsourcing our students' educations.