With tuition frozen, California’s public colleges and universities were looking for increased funding from Governor Jerry Brown’s budget plan. However, writes Christina Hoag in an AP story, the Legislative Analyst’s Office has provided Brown’s plan a failing grade.
The analysis criticizes Brown for removing key decisions from the state legislature, but it also criticizes his budget proposals because of not ensuring that more money will go to the places it’s needed most. If tuition is frozen and the state increases spending, the Legislative Analyst wants the additional money to assist improve graduation rates, in addition to other priorities. Brown’s budget lacks these mechanisms, although it gives an additional $1.4 billion to public advanced schooling.
Highest priorities are fully funding pensions and debt, and making sure that community colleges’ needs are met. But next, graduation is exactly what will most help the state’s flagging economy.
If there\’s extra money after meeting those priorities, that funding should be specifically linked to benchmark goals for graduation rates and enrollment, the legislative analyst said.
The report noted that only 23 percent of full-time community college students graduate or transfer within 3 years and fewer than half of Cal State students graduate within six years.
Graduation rates drop when students have to take required courses, but the courses have wait lists that are too long. Students must remain enrolled, so they take courses they don\’t really need, while waiting to get involved with high-demand classes. Brown’s plan includes expansion of online offerings to ensure that student may have this option to obtain these courses done and graduate. The University of California recently set a target of getting 10% of their courses into an online format. Overloaded required courses are among the top priorities.
While the analyst’s report will follow this priority, it said that funding increases ought to be directly linked to outcomes like graduation, cutting costs, and increased research. Their state cannot afford to finance good ideas without direct pay off. The report also expressed concern about the current tuition situation.
The report said a long tuition freeze was worrisome as it would result in a steep increase in the next downturn in the economy. It notes that tuition paid by students funds only about 30 percent of the University of California\’s costs and merely 6 percent of Cal State\’s.
California students have already seen steep tuition increases recently as the state tries to keep its universities from red ink.
Pennsylvania is facing a greater education crisis much like California’s. The governor recently negotiated an agreement with the public universities they would not raise tuition, as well as in exchange, funding would remain at the same levels.
California needs to do one better by increasing funding, but this comes at any given time when there are lots of other pressing priorities for that state’s education spending. A current court order will force the state to pay back many school districts for unfunded mandates
concerning the behavioral needs of some kind of special education students. The amount is close to what Brown proposed to invest on improving higher education.