Credit: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/Polaris
Cal State Dominguez Hills

California’s public colleges and universities would see significant financial investments under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised 2021-22 budget proposal.

The proposal released Friday focuses on affordable student housing, improving the connection between employers and colleges and driving down the cost of textbooks and other expenses. The plan also would provide significant funding to convert Humboldt State University into the CSU system’s third polytechnic campus.

“We are looking again to make historic investments into higher education,” Newsom said, adding that these investments would help the state reach its new goal of having 70% of all adults ages 25 to 64 hold at least an associate degree.

In total, Newsom’s budget revision proposes $48.7 billion for the state’s university systems, community colleges, the California Student Aid Commission, which oversees financial aid programs, and others.

In January, Newsom initially proposed a 3% increase to the state’s two university systems base budgets. Now, he would increase ongoing funding by 5% and restore cuts made last year during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Newsom also proposed $4 billion in one-time funding split between 2021-22 and 2022-23 to create a low-cost student housing grant program that would help to expand affordable housing across the state. Those dollars would go to the University of California, California State University and the community college systems to build new student housing or purchase commercial properties that could be repurposed.

The grants would also reduce student rent and prioritize access to low-income and underrepresented Black and Latino students. However, campuses could require “student-tenants to take an average of 15 degree-applicable units per semester” in order to take advantage of these programs so they would complete degrees in a timely manner.

“One of the biggest factors of costs is not tuition,” Newsom said. “The vast majority of Californians don’t pay tuition because of our long-standing commitment to people, low-income and many in the middle class, but the costs are still borne on housing, textbooks and other related travel expenses.”

Newsom would also invest $115 million in expanding zero-cost textbook degrees across the state’s community college system, saying the “racket that is the textbook industry is abusive to common sense,” he said.

The grant program allows the community college system to create associate degree and certificate programs that can be completed entirely without purchasing a single textbook. Students, for example, instead rely on open educational resources, which tend to be online and are free to students and openly licensed.

University of California

The 10-campus system, which enrolls 285,000 undergraduate and graduate students, did well in Newsom’s proposal. The UC system would see an increase of $506 million in ongoing dollars and $451 million in one-time additional dollars — about $957 million in all. Included in that is the restoration of $302 million UC lost last year during budget cuts in the pandemic-related recession and an extra $173 million in general funds.

In addition, Newsom wants to dedicate $150 million in federal stimulus funds for building repairs and energy efficiency at UC campuses.

(The UC system is slated to receive an additional $685 million in the latest round of direct federal payments to cover its pandemic losses. The California State University system would get $1.5 billion and the community colleges would see $2.3 billion from Washington.)

As he has done in the past, Newsom is demanding that UC and the CSU system not raise their in-state undergraduate tuition and fees for the 2021-22 school year. That position won’t trigger any immediate conflict with the universities but could influence UC’s consideration of a proposed series of tuition hikes starting with freshmen entering in fall 2022.

The UC regents in July are expected to vote on that plan to raise tuition for those new students by 2% plus inflation, which the university expects would mean a $642 annual increase for California residents, bringing the total cost of tuition to $13,212. Tuition would then be frozen for that class of students for six years while each subsequent group of freshmen would see increases based on inflation.

A UC spokesman said officials would not comment about how the proposal to increase tuition in 2022 for freshmen might be affected by the governor’s insistence that tuition not rise in 2021.

UC President Michael Drake and Board of Regents Chairman John A. Perez said in a statement that the system “is deeply grateful” to Newsom for proposing what they described as the largest state investment in UC’s history.

“The allocation recognizes the University’s role as a key driver of California’s economic future,” their statement added, and “will improve student learning and maintain UC’s role as a leading system of higher education worldwide.”

However, those UC leaders said they hoped to receive additional funding for such priorities as closing graduation equity gaps among racial groups, expanding online education and supporting undocumented students and foster youth.

California State University

CSU would see a $1.4 billion investment, including $596.1 million in ongoing dollars and an $833 million investment in one-time funds.

CSU, which enrolls approximately 486,000 undergraduate and graduate students across 23 campuses, would see $299 million restored from last year’s pandemic-related budget cuts. The system would also receive $185.9 million in general funds included in the overall investment.

“Investing in the CSU — the nation’s largest and most diverse public university — continues to be one of the wisest and most consequential decisions our state’s leaders can make,” CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro said. “The one-time funding proposed by Gov. Newsom is also very much appreciated and is essential to begin addressing the university’s long-standing infrastructure needs.”

One of Newsom’s most significant proposals to the CSU system is $433 million in one-time money and $25 million ongoing to support Humboldt State University becoming the system’s third polytechnic institution.

“I’m a big supporter of the Cal Polys,” Newsom said, adding that the proposal is an “opportunity to revitalize the economy in Northern California in and around Humboldt State.”

The one-time dollars would go to renovating Humboldt’s facilities to center on more science and laboratories. The ongoing dollars would help build programs like cybersecurity, wildlife management and climate resilience.

Despite Newsom’s proposed investment, the decision to convert Humboldt into a polytechnic lies with the CSU Board of Trustees, who are expected to see a campus study of the plan this summer. Jenn Capps, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the university, said the funding from the governor would help with startup costs, including creating affordable housing for students.

“This is an opportunity to have a positive economic impact for the North Coast and California,” Capps said. The campus would also be unique and “complement” Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo by focusing on climate change, sustainability and natural resources, she said.

Castro described Newsom’s investments in Humboldt and a boost of $25 million in one-time dollars to support a national Center for Equity in Innovation and Technology at CSU Northridge as “transformational.” The funding to CSU Northridge, which is classified federally as a Hispanic-serving institution, would help underrepresented Black and Latino students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math.

California Community Colleges and workforce development

The 116-campus California Community Colleges system would see about $3.6 billion in investments including $326.5 million to fully retire deferrals, $115 million to expand zero-cost textbook degrees and $75 million to increase dual enrollment with local school districts.

Newsom’s revision also includes $1 billion in one-time funding from the federal government for the Student Aid Commission to create a one-time grant program to support displaced workers who want to pursue education or start a business. Students who receive this funding could use the grants at a UC, CSU or community college campus.

“The governor’s revised budget plan leverages an historic level of revenue to create lasting opportunities for community college students and will power the economic recovery that makes our state stronger and more equitable,” Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the community college system chancellor, said.

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