The whole idea behind state schools like UCLA and Cal State campuses was that anyone could get a world-class education — you didn't need to be a Vanderbilt (or, to be more current, a Vanderpump).

But as the state budget has constricted education spending and flowed more cash to prisons, students have been asked to pay more. So much so that the costs are nearing private-school prices in some cases. UCLA students are looking at nearly triple the fees they paid only 10 years ago, more than $10,000-a-year worth.

And so, even ramen starts to hurt the pocketbook. Enter 580 Cafe in Westwood:

The eatery at St. Alban's Episcopal Church just off-campus is offering free lunch to students Mondays and Tuesdays, and free snacks Monday through Friday.

View Larger Map

Are things really that bad that one of L.A.'s more elite institutions of higher learning has a … hunger problem? (Don't tell Obama — he has enough on his plate).

The church's Jeanne Roe Smith tells NBC Los Angeles, which broke the news of the existence of this Westside cafe:

We are seeing in the last year an even greater increase in what looks like, across the margin, even pushing into what you would think is the normal college student who comes from a middle-income family.

UCLA senior David Velazquez, who works two jobs and pays $500 in rent, says ” … The cafe really helps out to supplement the empty space in my budget.”

Yeah, it is that bad.

So next time you lament the demise of California's higher education system, remember that Prop. 13-protected property taxes and a huge prison population comprise the rosy flip side. Enjoy.


LA Weekly