It has often been said that a budget is not just a series of numbers, but a reflection of our values.
As products of California’s public higher education system, we applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently proposed budget that moves us closer to the values California outlined decades ago by making public higher education more accessible to students.
The proposed budget provides new multi-year funding agreements for the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU) and California Community Colleges (CCC) to increase college access and close equity gaps for more California students, including setting a 70 percent degree attainment goal and proposing investments that help UC and CSU to enroll and graduate more students.
But there is still work to be done.
Additional funding must be added to the governor’s budget to ensure the safety of students and staff by updating and maintaining aging and, in some cases, obsolete classrooms, dormitories and other facilities.
More than half of the UC’s public buildings are over 30 years old. At CSU, half of the system’s facilities are 40 years or older, and a third are more than 50 years old.
In addition to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the 2020 defeat of Proposition 13, which would have provided $15 billion to the state’s higher education systems, a steep decline in state investment for California’s four-year universities and colleges during the Great Recession left our state’s public universities with a massive deferred maintenance backlog.
More than half of the UC’s public buildings are over 30 years old. At CSU, half of the system’s facilities are 40 years or older, and a third are more than 50 years old. That means broken air conditioning systems, outdated classrooms and obsolete equipment. Most importantly, it means a serious earthquake or natural disaster could endanger students’ lives.
To ensure safe classrooms and give students the tools to succeed, Gov. Newsom’s budget must provide additional funds to repair and update these structures and address other cases of deferred maintenance.
By investing in our public higher education system’s facilities and sustainability, we can ensure that the UC, CSU and CCC systems continue to create the diverse and highly educated workforce needed to drive California’s and the nation’s economy forward.
As California’s third-largest employer, UC alone generates more than 500,000 jobs and creates $82 billion annually in economic output for the state.
To meet rapidly growing student demand and the need for a skilled and educated workforce, California must continue to protect its 150+ year investment in its public higher education system that serves as one of the state’s most potent economic engines, creating jobs and delivering value for each dollar spent.
As California’s third-largest employer, UC alone generates more than 500,000 jobs and creates $82 billion annually in economic output for the state. One in every 10 California employees is a CSU graduate, and the system annually generates $26.9 billion in industry activity and $10.3 billion in labor income throughout the state. CCC is the nation’s largest provider of workforce training, and California taxpayers receive $4.50 for every $1 invested in community college graduates.
As the state grows and these systems continue to experience increased demand, it is vital that we invest in the future of California’s public higher education systems and, by extension, our state itself.
Editor’s Note: Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine co-chair the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Ackerman is a Republican who served in the state Senate and Assembly from Orange County. Levine is a Democrat and a former member of Congress who served in the state Assembly from Los Angeles.