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Videos: Higher Education Priorities

Mary Severance November 21, 2018

Last week in Sacramento, PPIC researcher Lunna Lopes outlined key findings from the latest PPIC Statewide Survey, which focuses on higher education. The following day in San Francisco, PPIC president Mark Baldassare and Monica Lozano, president of the College Futures Foundation, talked about the survey’s implications for governor-elect Gavin Newsom.

The survey finds that most Californians think public higher education should be a high priority for the next governor. For Monica Lozano, this is a key takeaway: “Overwhelmingly, Californians said that a four-year degree is essential to the economic vitality of the state. And, as much as we have considered Jerry Brown a real progressive on lots of issues, there is a sense that he did not do enough on higher education.”

Lozano also noted that Californians are focused on helping students succeed. Their concerns are less about access and enrollment capacity and more about student support: student debt, financial aid, and academic and other kinds of support. “The public is putting students at the center of this equation,” she said.

A majority of Californians see affordability as a big problem. In a state with one of the highest costs of living in the country, residents are divided on whether tuition and fees or housing and living expenses are the bigger burden: 45% say tuition and fees, 34% say housing and living expenses, and 17% volunteer that the two are equally burdensome. As Baldassare put it, “There’s more to affordability than tuition and fees.”

Noting that governor-elect Newsom has an ambitious agenda for “cradle to career” education, Baldassare asked how higher education advocates and experts could help the new administration move forward.

Lozano replied, “Our challenge is to actually help them think about the fundamental issues that surfaced in this survey.” For example, most Californians think state higher education funding is inadequate and many support a funding guarantee for UC and CSU. “If the system of financing higher education has to change so that it’s more predictable—so that there’s some sort of a dedicated revenue stream that’s tied to some accountability measures—how would you actually do that?”

More generally, Lozano and Baldassare agreed that the survey shows how highly Californians value higher education; as Lozano put it, “This survey gives the next governor permission to be bold.”

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