Higher ed chiefs join forces for state budget advocacy
UC President Mark G. Yudof teamed up with the leaders of California’s public colleges and universities Tuesday, May 1, to deliver a strong message to state lawmakers: Energize the state’s economy by reinvesting in higher education.
Yudof, California State University Chancellor Charles Reed and California Community College Chancellor Jack Scott kicked off the third annual Joint Higher Education Day with a morning rally on the steps of the state Capitol. About 250 alumni, students, staff and business leaders turned out for the event, aimed at persuading lawmakers to make funding the state’s public colleges and universities a priority.
Yudof said he was optimistic about the budget outlook for higher education, but advocates need to keep fighting in Sacramento and throughout California to gain badly needed state financial support.
“State government has gone way, way too far in cutting higher ed,” Yudof said. “We’re not cutting into fat. These cuts are hurting our campuses.”
UC and CSU each sustained $750 million in state budget reductions in the 2011-12 fiscal year, forcing tuition increases and cuts in course offerings and student services. The community colleges were cut $502 million and face another $149 million shortfall because property tax and student fee revenues are lower than original estimates. Statewide community college enrollment has declined by 300,000 students. Scott attributed the enrollment drop to the cuts in classes and programs the budget shortfall forced campuses to make.
Before advocates dispersed for a day of meetings with lawmakers, the three higher education leaders reminded them of the contributions public colleges and universities make to the state’s workforce development and economic health.
For every $1 the state invests in higher education, it gets a return of $4.50, Scott said, citing a recent report from the Campaign for College Opportunity. Graduates of community college career technical programs double their earnings within three years, and that means they pay higher taxes and can contribute more to the state’s economy, Scott said.
Reed urged advocates to tell their elected representatives to reallocate some of the millions of dollars they spend on prisons to higher education.
“Let’s talk about changing the set of priorities in California from a system based on failure,” Reed said.
Higher education advocates can have a powerful influence on legislators by working together, said third-year student Adam Swart, a member of the UCLA delegation.
“Joint Higher Education Day is a great opportunity for students, staff and administrators to come together around our common goals of preserving high quality, affordable and accessible education for all students,” Swart said. “Education is important not only for students but for businesses and every family in California. We’re all stakeholders in higher education.”