By Jessica Wang
In response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget proposal for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, California State Student Association President Taylor Herren said in a Jan. 7 press release that the California State University proposal is $101.3 million less than what students need for academic success.
The state budget proposal, a financial document submitted each year to the legislature for approval, details revenue and spending plans for the fiscal year.
While the public response to Brown’s proposal has been overwhelmingly positive ” with many news outlets and organizations citing a boost to all CSU funds, coupled with heightened hopes of university support being shy of recession rates ” the CSSA believes that the budget falls short of expectations.
Meredith Turner, chief governmental officer of CSSA, shared insights on the contrast of the multi-year funding between current and past decades.
“California is spending about $2,000 less for students than they were 15 years ago, and that shows,” said Turner. “Whether it be through the graduation rates we’ve had, [and] we don’t have enough capacity for our students, we don’t have classes that students need ” all of that is the result of the state choosing not to invest.”
The CSU budget seeks to create opportunity for not only current students, but potential students as well.
“For many, many years now we have denied tens of thousands of eligible students because we don’t have the capacity for them,” said Turner. “And the state’s not giving us the resources to do that.”
Resources that the CSU budget advocates for include capacity for incoming students; access to classes, advisors and finances; and effective and safe infrastructure ” all of which are factors that contribute to graduation rates.
According to Turner, the current state of higher education funding can be attributed to two elements: past recession and competing funding priorities.
Whereas K-12 funding is always guaranteed by the state, higher education funding falls under discretionary funding ” one that isn’t always guaranteed. During times of recession, higher education would consequently be the easiest to cut, according to Turner. Additionally, competing funding priorities include social services, transportation and infrastructure.
While the CSSA believes that Brown has been fairly reputable in restoring budget cuts and deferred maintenance ” that is, postponing maintenance projects to preserve costs and meet funding levels ” it also believes that more money should be allocated to the CSU system.
“You have to invest in an educated workforce,” said Turner. “The more educated Californians are, the more able [they are] going to be to fill the 21stcentury jobs. ” A college degree also serves as a tool for social mobility for so many families ” particularly first-generation students whose families have never gone to college before.”
Associated Students, Inc. Vice President Diana Ascencio, speaker deputy on the Social Justice and Equity Council in the CSSA, shared her insights on student success measures.
“I think what we all need to focus on first is getting students graduated and closing that graduation gap,” said Ascencio. “Then [adding] more students’ classes and campuses won’t be so impacted.”
One consistent theme surfaced in both Brown and the CSU’s budget: the improvement of graduation rates.
According to Brown’s proposal summary for the budget, reports indicate that the four-year graduation rates for students who enter the CSU as freshmen are fairly microscopic.
Contrary to these reports is a message sent to colleagues by CSU Chancellor Timothy White. The release reads that the CSU’s Graduation Initiative has “significantly raised student success to all-time highs in both four-year and six-year graduation rates,” while reaching the “national average for four-year comprehensive institutions.”
Turner offered insight on the conflicting views, as she acknowledged that the governor and legislature make a valid point, but will need to meet CSUs halfway with more investment to combat issues such as impaction.
“I think all but six Cal State University campuses are impacted, and that means a lot of majors are above capacity,” said Turner. “And that makes it really challenging for students to get the classes that they need, when they need them, in order to graduate in a timely manner.”
“One of our goals in the CSSA is to show the legislature and the government how unique our students are and why they’re such a valuable investment,” added Turner. “So we’ll continue to do that this year through [our] campaign.”
Courtesy of Gov. Jerry Brown
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