California governor proposes almost $40B for higher ed, sets long-term goals

Dive Brief:

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom released a 2022-23 budget proposal Monday that would spread $39.6 billion across the state’s three college systems and the California Student Aid Commission. At the same time, the governor’s plan outlines ambitious goals for postsecondary attainment, equity, access and affordability.
  • The University of California System would receive $4.3 billion in ongoing general funding in 2022-23, and its sister system, California State University, would get just short of $5 billion. Newsom called for the systems to receive annual 5% funding increases through 2026-27.
  • The California Community Colleges system would get $12.7 billion in ongoing general funding in 2022-23. Newsom promised funding increases for the community colleges in the future while calling for the system to meet expectations like increasing the percentage of students attaining associate degrees, credentials, certificates and skills for in-demand jobs by 20% by 2026.

Dive Insight:

Passage of a final California budget for next year isn’t expected for months, but the proposal from Newsom, a Democrat, is still important because it signals funding levels and priorities for public colleges in the country’s most populous state.

Newsom wants 70% of working-aged Californians to hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030.

The multiyear approach is also important because it allows for the planning that long-term goals require, according to Tom Harnisch, vice president for government relations at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

“The key to public higher education improving student access and outcomes is sufficient, sustained and predictable budgeting,” he said.

A number of states have outlined ambitious education budget increases this year, according to Harnisch, but he called California’s the boldest example he’s seen.

Some of the additional funding Newsom proposed would pay to increase in-state undergraduate enrollment in the upcoming academic year by 9,434 at Cal State and 7,132 at the University of California. The Cal State system enrolled a total of 485,550 students in fall 2020, with 95% coming from California. The University of California system enrolled 285,862, with about 77% California residents.

California Community Colleges is the biggest higher education system in the country, with 116 campuses and 1.8 million students enrolled per year. Newsom’s proposal would push the system to work toward improving time-to-degree metrics and certificate completion. The governor also wants the community colleges system to facilitate transfer of its students to four-year colleges and universities.

Newsom’s budget proposal calls for the UC system to eliminate graduation gaps between all four-year students and underrepresented students by 2030. It also calls for halving the gap by the end of the 2025-26 academic year. 

Timely degree completion would reduce total cost of attendance and increase student outcomes, according to the proposal. The budget maintains the University of California’s existing goal to enroll one in-state transfer student for every two new in-state first-year students.

Goals for Cal State include increasing resident undergraduate enrollment by about 1% per year through 2026-27, adding about 14,000 more full-time students, and eliminating graduation gaps between students who qualify for Pell Grants and those who do not.

The proposal will be revised in May with the latest economic forecasts. A final budget is expected to be passed by the California legislature this summer.

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