Governor Gavin Newsom’s first Budget proposal has a good deal of hopeful news for higher education. Now, the devil will be in the details and in committing to ongoing funding, rather that the cyclical ups and downs that have undermined the University of California, California State University and our community colleges over the past several decades.
It is heartning that Governor Newsom has once again made higher education a State priority. The initial 2019-20 Budget proposal unveiled by the Governor includes more than a billion dollars in additional funding for the three sectors combined. This marks the most substantial higher education funding boost in more than a decade.
The University of California will receive an additional $240 million in operating funds—a 6.9% increase—plus a one-time outlay of $153 million, primarily for maintenance. CSU will receive an additional $318 million in operating funds—an 8% increase—plus a one-time allocation of $264 million. Community colleges will be getting an additional $401 million and the Governor is proposing that the State cover two-full years of free community college. This is all good news, but it is only a start. Public higher education is still recovering from years of underfunding by the State with much of the cost burden being shifted to students and their families.
The Public Policy Institute of California has documented the need for more than a million additional college graduates to carry the state’s economy forward. The three sectors—UC, CSU and the community colleges—are by far the largest source of college graduates in the Golden State. UC has an initiative to produce 200,000 more degrees by 2030 to meet California’s workforce needs, but must have stepped up State funding to realize that goal.
No one wants to see tuition increases and everyone wants to see increased enrollment of California students. Last year, UC received one-time funding of $95 million in lieu of a tuition increase. That one-time money must be converted to ongoing support if we are to avoid additional student levies. As welcome as UC’s $240 million increase for operations is, it is only a little more than half of what is needed for the University to maintain quality, retain faculty, increase graduation rates, increase enrollment and avoid new tuition and fee increases.
More State funding is critical for UC, CSU and the community colleges. It is also essential that State Budget allocations be ongoing and predictable. Too often, higher education has borne the brunt of dips in State revenue and its boom and bust fiscal rollercoaster. It has been too easy for decision-makers in Sacramento to sacrifice higher education funding whenever there is a Budget shortfall. That’s why per student State funding is still only fraction of what it was thirty years ago. Higher education fuels California’s good times and provides the essentials of productivity and innovation that enable us to reverse the bad times.
Governor Newsom deserves credit for a great start for higher education in his first Budget proposal Now, the Governor and Legislature can roll up their sleeves to fill in the gaps and make sure that our outstanding higher education system has the resources needed for it to continue as the finest in the world.