Higher ED Leaders in California Protest Budget Cuts

The leaders of the California Community College, the California State University and the University of California systems have come together to petition policymakers in the state capitol to resist deep budgets cuts for public higher education.

CCC Chancellor Diane Woodruff, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and UC President Robert Dynes urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California state Legislature to provide the necessary funding in this year’s higher education budget.

“This unprecedented collaboration among our three institutions underscores the severity of the proposed cuts and their potentially devastating effects on the people of this state, now and for years to come,” said Reed. “If we want California to be competitive in the global economy, then funding for higher education needs to be a top fiscal priority.”

Together, the three systems have been told they can expect $1.2 billion less than they say they need for the fiscal year that begins July 1. If adopted in the final state budget, among other things the proposed cuts would mean severe hardship for students: Tens of thousands of qualified students will be denied a spot in college or be unable to make progress toward a degree or certificate, representatives from the UC system reported.

For the past few months, leaders and other members of the three systems have been engaged in a first-ever joint public education campaign aimed at helping the public and policymakers understand how important the state’s investment in public higher education is to California’s economy, and to the short- and long-term well being of Californians.

The proposed budget would leave the community colleges without the resources to serve more than 50,000 students next year, and both the CSU and UC systems are already over-enrolled by 10,000 and 4,000 students, respectively. CSU has already been forced to turn away 10,000 qualified students for the coming fall semester, and although UC admitted a record number of students for this fall, it may not be able to increase enrollment at all the following year. Student fee increases also will be considered by the governing boards of the UC and CSU systems.

“This is not about the future of our respective institutions; it is about our state’s economy and the future of California,” said Woodruff. “California’s public higher education systems not only create vital educational opportunities that help improve the quality of life for all Californians, they also represent the economic engine that keeps California thriving and globally competitive.”

A recent study commissioned by the Campaign for College Opportunity analyzed the cumulative impact of the proposed budget cuts on the three public higher education systems and the citizens of California.

Key findings included:

  • The proposed $57 million cut in funding for the Cal Grant financial aid program would deny 18,500 of the poorest community college students financial aid along with several thousand CSU and UC students.
  • Even if the state’s finances improve enough to allow for increases in next year’s higher education budget, CSU and UC together could have to turn away more than 27,000 students in the next two and a half years (the size of an entire campus) in order to allow funding to “catch up” with existing enrollment.
  • If 2 percent more Californians had associate degrees and another 1 percent more earned bachelor’s degrees, California’s economy would grow by $20 billion, and state and local tax revenues would increase by $1.2 billion per year.

California is expected to need 3.2 million new college-educated workers for the nursing, teaching and engineering fields, according to a Sacramento State University study.

“There is a reason why other U.S. states look to California’s public higher education system as a model ours is a remarkable and unique system that has produced remarkable results for generations of Californians,” said UC Provost Rory Hume. “The proposed budget cuts have the potential to cripple the kinds of educational, economic, scientific and technological benefits that Californians enjoy on a daily basis.”

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