Three years ago, Governor Jerry Brown launched a four-year program of gradually increased budgets for the University of California, California State University, and community college systems, contingent on keeping student fees flat.

Sounds pretty good, right?

The problem is: Such small increases in the state’s share of funding, combined with tuition freezes, means funding for higher education is actually lower than the rate of inflation. Rather than a guaranteed slow rate of funding growth, this is instead a guaranteed slow bleeding to death of California’s public higher education systems. Plus, starting the Multi-Year Stable Funding Plan at the depths of the Great Recession meant starting when the schools were already terribly wounded.

In other words, even with these increased budgets, none of the state’s three public higher education systems are receiving enough funds to maintain their enrollment levels or to fix their decaying campus infrastructures. Today, a higher education is a basic requirement for entry level jobs, and more students than ever are seeking enrollment. Students should not bear the responsibility for increasing tuition costs at a time when student loans have skyrocketed. Let’s keep our higher education affordable, accessible, and quality!

This can be fixed, and it can be fixed now.

This spring, the Legislature is finalizing the 2015-16 state budget. Legislators need only look at the budget requests that each system has made to see that there’s an urgent need to increase the governor’s proposed higher education budget — just to keep our campus doors open and our higher education systems running.

By July 1, when the budget is set to be finalized, we could have a fix in hand, if only legislators and the governor would use some common sense and allocate full funding to all three systems.

Let’s look at the UC system as an example. As part of his Multi-Year Stable Funding Plan, the governor has proposed $119.5 million in additional funding, which looks good on paper but in fact is $97.5 million less than the UC Board of Regents has requested.

Now a so-called “Committee of Two” — comprised of Gov. Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano — is meeting to find a solution that can avert tuition hikes, which otherwise could be inevitable.

California will need at least one million more graduates by 2025 to remain economically competitive, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. How can we possibly meet this need if the state short-changes public higher education year after year?

A coalition of stakeholder organizations representing students and employees across all three systems has come together to press not only for full funding but also for a recommitment to the California Master Plan for Higher Education. Reclaim California Higher Education advocates for a return to the vision of higher education affordability, accessibility, and quality for all Californians.

This spring, its members are talking to legislators across the state, urging them to restore adequate state funding to higher education, starting with the pending 2015-16 state budget. Now is the time to implement both increased state investment and institutional reforms.

As the group stated in a letter to Gov. Brown in early March, “Tuition and administrative costs are skyrocketing, while enrollment of in-state students is not keeping pace with the needs of our economy. Our institutions of higher learning should, once again, be engines of economic growth and good jobs in our communities.”

With the 2015-16 budget, it’s time to again prioritize higher education within the State of California!

Aviva Milner-Brage is a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara and an elected officer in UAW 2865, union for teaching assistants, tutors, and readers. United Automobile Workers (UAW) 2865 is part of a statewide coalition of unions and student governments fighting for more state funding for higher education.


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