New incoming student Olivia Murphy, second from left in white top, takes her family on a tour of the campus at Cal State Fullerton on Aug. 21, 2020. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Polaris, via EdSource)

California’s public colleges and universities would receive additional investment under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2021-22 budget proposal in an attempt to keep tuition at current levels, provide students with emergency financial aid and support for basic needs like housing and food, accelerate transition between two- and four-year institutions, and improve pathways to jobs.

Newsom proposed significant new investments in the state’s 116 community college system, totaling about $600 million for a range of ongoing and one-time programs and initiatives. In particular, he drew attention to the increased number of students dropping out of community colleges because of the pandemic, and included proposals to “re-engage” as many of those students as possible.

Community colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley praised Newsom’s budget, saying it “puts students first.” “By investing in emergency student assistance and the infrastructure needed to continue bridging the digital divide, we can take the necessary steps to strengthen colleges’ efforts to lead our state to economic recovery,” he said.

Funding for the California State University and the University of California system would increase by 3%, but remain below their pre-pandemic levels.

‘A welcome reinvestment in CSU’

“Gov. Newsom’s budget proposal provides a welcome reinvestment in CSU and demonstrates his continued belief in the power of public higher education in developing future leaders of our state and improving the lives of the residents of California,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro, who assumed his post this month.

The budget proposes a total of $786 million in new spending for the 10-campus UC system and the 23-campus CSU system to reduce the time to degree completion, address the gaps in graduation rates for low-income, first-generation and Black and Latino students compared to their peers, and establish a dual enrollment program that allows freshman at the community colleges to be considered for guaranteed admission to CSU upon completion of an Associate Degree for Transfer.

The budget assumes that in-state resident tuition and fees remain flat for the coming academic year at both UC and CSU.

Going Deeper

“I know a lot of folks were disappointed that the federal stimulus wasn’t even larger,” Newsom said during his budget briefing Jan. 8. “But you’ve got to acknowledge these are significant investments that will enhance our efforts here in the state substantially and provide real injection of support, particularly to our UCs and CSUs.”

California State University 

For CSU, the budget includes $144.5 million — a 3% increase from last year — in recurring money to support the basic needs component of the Graduation Initiative 2025, an initiative to improve student graduation rates; a learning management platform that integrates online courses with the community colleges; and mental health initiatives.

The additional dollars in ongoing money is also expected to help fund the new ethnic studies requirement, known as AB 1460, which is expected to require the hiring of new faculty to teach courses in Black, Latino, Asian American and Native American studies.

Newsom also proposed $225 million in one-time money for initiatives including deferred building maintenance, financial aid grants to support students and professional development for faculty upgrade their skills to serve students from diverse backgrounds. Of the total one-time dollars, $175 million would allow the campuses to repair and upgrade aging buildings.

The one-time money also includes:

  • $30 million for emergency financial assistance grants for full-time, low-income students and other students who worked full-time prior to the pandemic.
  • $10 million for faculty professional development to help instructors use technology to improve online learning.

In a statement, the California Faculty Association, which represents nearly 30,000 CSU instructors and staff, used one word to describe how their members felt after seeing Newsom’s budget: “Encouraged. It is as simple as that.”

While this brings some much-needed good news for our faculty and our students, we believe that California’s elected leadership must understand the realities of educating during this pandemic,” the union said. “CSU leadership has announced a return to campus for Fall 2021. In order for this to happen safely, the CSU should be provided with the necessary resources, i.e. proper investment and funds.”

The additional money to CSU and UC also includes a requirement to create a new system to improve the ability of students to transfer from the community colleges. This would be open to incoming community college students who agree to take required courses for a transferable associate degree.

University of California 

The UC system will also receive a 3% increase in its base resources from the state, totaling $136 million, with the expectation that UC will reduce gaps in graduation rates for low-income, first generation and Black and Latino students compared to their peers. It is also supposed to create a new dual admissions pathway at UC for community college students along the lines of Newsom’s proposal for CSU.

UC President Michael Drake and Board of Regents chair John Pérez thanked Newsom for the investments and said they would seek further funding during budget negotiations this spring. “We will collaborate with the governor and Legislature in the months ahead to secure additional funding and continue our university’s vital work of expanding access and affordability for California students, delivering quality health care and driving the state’s economic recovery,” they said in a joint statement.

The proposal for UC includes $103.9 million to help offset the $300.8 million that the state cut from the system’s general fund a year ago. Like CSU, UC had requested that the state fill the entire budget hole.

Newsom also proposed giving $15 million in ongoing dollars to UC to provide students with better mental health resources and help them access computers and the internet.

In one-time spending, Newsom proposed $225 million for the UC system. The majority of that spending — $175 million — would fund deferred building maintenance. An additional $15 million would go toward emergency grants for students with financial need.

California Community Colleges

The state’s community colleges would receive $250 million in one-time spending for emergency financial aid assistance for students in need. Newsom proposed that $100 million of those funds be approved based on “early action” by the Legislature, meaning that students would have access to the emergency aid this semester.

As part of the early action package, Newsom is also proposing a one-time investment of $20 million for “retention and re-enrollment,” which could include engaging with students who have dropped out and helping them re-enroll.

Other new investments in the community college system include: $100 million in one-time spending to support students in need of food and housing; $23.1 million to cover the costs of additional student enrollments; $30 million for mental health services and computer access and equipment for students to help students bridge the digital divide; and $15 million in one-time funding for open-source textbooks to offset what he called the “usurious costs” of textbooks.

The governor also proposed $111.1 in ongoing funding to the system to pay for a 1.5% cost-of-living increase.

Like the CSU, the community college and UC systems would also receive funding to upgrade faculty skills to serve students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Workforce Development 

The budget also sets aside $250 million in one-time funding to support initiatives between colleges, universities and employers to connect students to jobs.

Newsom’s proposal includes $15 million in ongoing Proposition 98 funds to support the California Apprenticeship Initiative at the community colleges to create more opportunities in emerging industries. It also includes $20 million in one-time funding to expand work-based learning models and programs in the community colleges.

California Student Aid Commission 

The budget proposal would also increase funding to the state’s financial aid Cal Grant program. Newsom proposes increasing competitive Cal Grants by approximately $35 million to add 9,000 more awards bringing the total to 50,000. The proposal also includes $58.2 million to preserve Cal Grants for students who had a change in their living status because of the coronavirus.

The budget would also increase other funding:

  • $20 million in ongoing dollars to increase awards to former and current foster youth.
  • $100 million in one-time dollars to support grants to students enrolled in teacher education programs who agree to work in high-need schools with the highest rates of non-credentialed teachers.

Newsom also proposes a new requirement for high schools to confirm that all seniors complete a financial aid application starting with the 2021-22 academic year.

“We at the Student Aid Commission are grateful to the Governor for his commitment to making college affordable for students,” said Marlene Garcia, executive director of the commission. “By investing in financial aid, we are investing in California’s economic recovery with equity. As we work through this crisis and rebuild our economy, college student success is a strategic resource that will help accelerate the state’s economic growth and recovery.”

Story originally published by EdSource.