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The governor’s budget proposal calls for increased funding for colleges and universities and a moratorium on tuition increases. Credit: Foothill College

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal boosts funding by more than a billion dollars for all three public university and college systems, although that’s not as much as California State University and the University of California had hoped for.

UC and CSU each wanted a 10 percent increase in state funding; they got 5 percent each, which is what the governor had committed to in a long-term funding plan that went into effect in 2013. The plan calls for “steady and predictable state funding increases through 2016-17” for higher education, according to the governor’s budget summary, released Thursday. 

Altogether, the three systems would receive $24.3 billion in the 2014-15 fiscal year under the budget plan, an increase of $839 million over the current year.

“We applaud the governor for sustaining his commitment to the multi-year funding plan,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy White in a statement. His colleagues at UC and the California Community Colleges expressed similar sentiments.

CSU would receive $5.7 billion under the governor’s plan, which gives $7 billion to UC and $11.6 billion to community colleges.

But that money comes with conditions. In exchange, Brown expects the colleges and universities to show measurable evidence of improved student success and a promise not to raise student fees. Between 2007-08, when the economy began to tank, CSU raised tuition by $2,700 to its current level of $5,472 for California residents. UC undergraduates pay $12,192, more than double the amount from five years ago. During that same period, community college fees jumped from $26 to $46 a unit.

Community College Chancellor Brice Harris called the budget welcome news “after years of budget cuts forced us to turn away hundreds of thousands of students.”

The community college system will receive a 11.4 percent increase, for a total state allocation of $11.6 billion next year. That includes an additional $200 million from Proposition 98, the voter-approved school-funding guarantee. The money must be used for programs to help boost the success rates of underrepresented students by strengthening and expanding counseling, orientation and other programs and support services.

“I would say that we’re encouraged by the proposal because it reflects the work that the colleges are doing to restore access and improve student success, and address the population that often seems to fall through the cracks,” said Beth Smith, president of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges.

Throughout the budget summary, Brown underscored the need for colleges to do more to improve student success by increasing graduation rates and decreasing the amount of time it takes students to earn a degree, certificate or transfer from a community college to a four-year college.

According to the state Department of Finance, just 16 percent of incoming freshmen at CSU graduate within four years. In community colleges, only about 54 percent of students who say they plan to earn a degree or certificate or plan to transfer to a university ever reach their goals, according to a report by the California Community Colleges Student Success Task Force.

Brown proposed a financial incentive for the colleges and universities to reach his expectations with a one-time general fund allocation of $50 million for the Awards for Innovation in Higher Education program. The competitive grant program would fund innovative ideas for campuses to develop model programs that measure student success and monitor their performance toward reaching the student success goals.

“The governor is to be commended for putting up the resources … so all students, regardless of where they live, have a real opportunity to go to college and succeed,” said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit that advocates for keeping college affordable and accessible.

The governor’s budget proposal advocates for tying higher education funding to performance standards, rather than basing funding on enrollment levels – an idea that has garnered opposition in the past. But Brown argues that the traditional funding model places school finances over student success.

“By itself, enrollment‑based funding does not encourage institutions to focus on critical outcomes — affordability, timely completion rates, and quality programs,” the budget summary said. “Instead, it builds upon the existing institutional infrastructure, allowing public universities and colleges to continue to deliver education in the high‑cost, traditional model.”

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