Legislative staffers explain that their revenue projections show the state will be more cash-rich next year than this year. The move puts pressure on the systems to begin hiring more faculty without money in the bank ahead of an expected mandate to enroll more students.
That sounds different than what Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat and chair of the Assembly’s budget committee, said yesterday during a hearing on the budget deal: “We also hear people that we need to increase access to higher education. So we are increasing slots for them for 15,000 more students.”
What’s getting money now
The historic budget, the largest ever produced by Sacramento, does inject real money for the fiscal year starting July 1 that will immediately benefit hundreds of thousands of students — but on a smaller scale than what lawmakers’ budget summaries say.
It’s a dramatic change from just a year ago, when the state was staring down a $54 billion budget hole and imposed cuts and IOUs of nearly $2.6 billion on California’s public universities and community colleges. All those dollars are being restored and then some in this budget deal, with the UC and CSU getting increases in ongoing funding of 5% — about $173 million and $186 million, respectively.
And that excludes other one-time investments, like more than $400 million to revamp Cal State Humboldt as the state’s third polytechnic university with the goal of beefing up California’s capacity to teach the sciences. Or the $2 billion over three years to build affordable student housing and other campus buildings.
A lot of that money will fund efforts at the UC and CSU to improve their graduation rates. This has the dual effect of getting students to a degree faster and opening slots for new students — though not as many as the proposed enrollment growth plans.
But all the money for the UC still falls short of how much of its core funding for student academics used to flow from state support. Just over a decade ago, 60% came from the state’s general fund. Lately, it’s closer to 40%, meaning the system has relied more on tuition hikes.
Cal Grants coming to twice as many community college students
The state’s marquee financial aid program, Cal Grant, will this year expand guaranteed eligibility to at least 133,000 more community college students, doubling how many community college students currently receive it. That number can grow in future years because the award is an entitlement. It’s the most significant update in two decades to arguably the nation’s most generous state financial aid program.
That’s because the restrictions on which community college students can get the guaranteed money are waived, including those a year or less from graduating high school and those under a certain age. They will remain for students attending UC, CSU and private schools. Those restrictions blocked most community college students from receiving the aid; while more than a third of UC and CSU students got Cal Grants, the same was true for less than 10% of community college students.