What if you could attend Pasadena's Caltech, ranked as the best university in the world by the London publication Times Higher Education, but still pay public-school tuition?

One state legislator wants you to be able to fulfill that dream, or something very close to it. Northeast L.A. Assemblyman Mike Gatto this week announced that he's proposing the development of a whole new University of California campus that his office describes as a “public Caltech.”

A year at the private Caltech will set you back $43,000, but Gatto thinks a similar public education at this dream school could be had for only about $13,000, a four-year savings of $120,000.

This is just an idea, so location is way off. But we think a UC Silicon Beach on L.A.'s Westside would certainly fit the bill.

But why, you wary taxpayers might ask, would you want to build another university? After all, Gatto's bill would cost taxpayers $50 million just to buy land and get the first shovels working once a suitable location somewhere in this vast state is found.

The lawmaker argues that there's great demand for high-tech workers in California, but little supply. According to a statement from his office, “California industries, from animation to aviation to app design, are finding it increasingly difficult to find the specialized graduates they need.”

Tech giants such as Facebook have had to look out of state (and, frankly, out of country) for engineers. The social media platform's Mark Zuckerberg once said, “Our policy at Facebook is literally to hire as many talented engineers as we can find. There just aren’t enough people who are trained and have these skills today.”


Tech and creative jobs are the future, yet too many California students are unable to get the education they need here in California. It is time for the legislature to prioritize higher education with bold moves, ones that will make a meaningful difference in the educational levels and skill-sets of Californians for generations to come.

Credit: Caltech via Eric Chan/Flickr

Credit: Caltech via Eric Chan/Flickr

Indeed, if you think about where the job and economic growth in the Golden State has come from, you'd have to point to Silicon Valley — and to L.A.'s own Silicon Beach.

Plus, the University of California was dedicated in 1960 to serving California high school students who graduate in the top one-eighth of their classes. LOL, right?

UC Berkeley and UCLA have turned into elite institutions where foreigners with cash are coveted, tuition has more than tripled in a generation, and incoming freshman often have an average GPA of 4.0 or above.

A tech-focused UC specialty school in the mold of the system's stand-alone Hastings College of the Law could kill two birds with one stone by opening up higher education to more California kids and by keeping the Golden State on top when it comes to tech know-how.

Says Gatto's office:

It will provide the much-needed extra capacity to meet demand, and promote the so-called STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). It can be thought of as a public version of Caltech.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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