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Policies for Creating and Keeping Jobs in California

By David Neumark, Emma Wohl

State efforts to spur job creation include 21 programs ranging from tax credits to worker training. Three policies offer strong evidence indicating they create jobs or increase employment in California. New programs—and programs with weak evidence—need to have built-in features that allow deeper evaluation.


Achieving Universal Broadband in California

By Joseph Hayes, Niu Gao, Darriya Starr, Amy Gong Liu

In 2021, California invested over $6 billion to expand broadband infrastructure, address affordability, and promote digital literacy. This report examines barriers to installing broadband in underserved communities and offers recommendations as the state aims to close the digital divide.


Groundwater and Urban Growth in the San Joaquin Valley

By Andrew Ayres, Ellen Hanak, Henry McCann, David Mitchell ...

As the San Joaquin Valley addresses groundwater overdraft under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), its urban utilities face unique challenges. Learn how to ensure a smooth transition for the region’s residents.

Fact Sheet

Public Preschools in California

By Caroline Danielson, Tess Thorman

Most parents of young children work, but public preschool programs are fragmented and currently unable to serve all who are eligible. Improvements will require a multipronged approach.

Fact Sheet

Census-Related Funding in California

By Patrick Murphy, Caroline Danielson

The census plays a role in determining federal funding levels for a broad range of state programs. An accurate count in 2020 can help California provide services to populations in need.

blog post

How the Census Affects State Finances

By Patrick Murphy

The census determines how billions of federal dollars are distributed to the states. California, in particular, has a lot at stake.


Measuring Institutional Costs at California’s Public Universities

By Patrick Murphy, Kevin Cook, Talib Jabbar

California has recently increased its investment in higher education after many years of reducing state support. At the same time, the state’s four-year public systems, the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU), are currently poised to raise tuition for the first time in several years. If the past is any indication, intense discussions lie ahead about the need for additional higher education resources.

We offer a constructive starting point for those discussions by introducing a straightforward and objective assessment of institutional costs. We rely on a measure that connects institutional costs to the number of degrees UC and CSU produce. This measure provides a clear understanding of trends in California’s institutional costs and allows comparisons with colleges and universities in other states. It also offers higher education institutions the opportunity to demonstrate progress toward their goals in an accessible, transparent way.

Applying this measure to California’s public four-year institutions, we find that:

  • Institutional costs per degree across UC and CSU fell significantly—17 percent—from 1987 to 2013. This is an important savings in a state that will need to amp up its number of college graduates to meet future economic demand.
  • At UC, the cost per degree fell 6 percent over the period—from $116,000 to $109,000. UC’s institutional costs in 2013 were lower than a comparison group that included both public and private institutions across the nation. But UC’s costs were higher than a national comparison group of public schools only.
  • At CSU, the cost fell 33 percent—from $67,000 to $45,000. CSU’s 2013 costs were lower than both types of comparison groups—one that included public schools only and one that included both public and private institutions.

We recommend that policymakers and higher education leaders use the cost per degree measure as a way to frame higher education finance discussions. It provides a consistent, reliable, and objective measure of institutional costs and performance. For the measure to be most effective, accurate data reporting will be essential. We also recommend the reintroduction of a state-level higher education authority to add validity to the process of gauging institutional performance. Using the measure within a larger framework of agreed-upon goals would go a long way toward improving higher education finance policy in California.


Higher Education in California: Student Costs

By Jacob Jackson

Increases in tuition across California’s public four-year universities have heightened concerns about the affordability of a college education, especially for those with the lowest incomes. In-state full tuition at the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) has risen more dramatically than at other public universities in other states over the past decade. During this same period, the federal, state, and institutional grant and scholarship programs that help make college affordable for students from lower- and middle-income families expanded. This helped lower-income families keep up with rising tuition, but the full price of college beyond tuition can still be a relatively large share of their income. Given the importance of higher education to California’s economic future, policymakers at the federal, state, and institutional levels need to make a continuing commitment to keep college affordable for students from low- and middle-income families. Also, given current tuition levels, it is more important than ever for the state to ensure that all students fill out financial aid forms and can easily access tools that can help them understand the financial aid packages they are offered.

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