The California State Legislature and Governor Brown recently reached a $200 billion budget deal that includes just over a billion dollars in new funding for the state’s public higher education systems. This funding forestalls proposed tuition increases at UC and CSU and allows each system to support increasing student access and success. Moreover, the governor and legislature’s work to maximize the state’s rainy day fund should help to reduce the likelihood of drastic tuition increases in the future, should an economic downturn threaten higher education funding.
The new funding will allow UC and CSU to enroll an additional 1,500 and 3,641 undergraduates, respectively, next fall. These enrollment increases—coupled with more dollars allocated to improve time-to-degree, boost graduation rates, and close achievement gaps—will help each system to do their part to provide much-needed growth in the number of college graduates in the state.
The budget deal also includes the governor’s top two higher education priorities: the creation of an online-only community college and the introduction of a new community college funding formula. This year, community college funding per full-time student will exceed $8,000—the highest level in the systems’ hundred-year history. (Mainly this is because community college funding falls under Proposition 98, the K–12 funding guarantee passed by voters in 1988.)
The online community college will be launched with $100 million and receive $20 million per year going forward. The goal? To provide opportunities to earn short-term credentials to California’s “stranded workforce” (workers stuck in low paying jobs or jobs that are likely to be automated soon), to help such workers to better compete in today’s labor market. The online college will offer credential programs that have demonstrated labor market value and are not already offered at brick-and-mortar community colleges.
The establishment of a community college funding formula will be phased in over three years. It will provide funding for low-income and underrepresented minority students, reward colleges for improved student outcomes, and reduce reliance on increased enrollment to secure state funding. This approach represents the ongoing emphasis on improving student outcomes at the community colleges.
This is Jerry Brown’s final budget deal—it will be up to the next governor to work with the legislature to ensure the ongoing health of the public higher education system. California’s future economy depends on it.