California Starvin’ [Its Universities]

State is slowly but surely defunding UC and CSU

Everyone knows about President Trump’s recent threat to pull federal funding from the University of California at Berkeley but few know that California is already starving its legendary university systems.

California’s General Fund revenues in the coming fiscal year are expected to be 23 percent higher than a decade ago. But state spending on the University of California and California State University has grown at a fraction of that pace. Eg, UC is scheduled to receive just six percent more than a decade ago, despite hosting more students. As a result, UC’s and CSU’s shares of the General Fund have taken a dive:

Sources: FYE08 Enacted Budget; FYE18 Governor’s Budget

Consequences include reduced services for students, less funding for faculty staffing and wage increases, and rising tuition. Eg, CSU’s tuition doubled and both UC and CSU have recently proposed additional tuition increases.

UC and CSU are being shortchanged because more state money is going to healthcare corporations, employee compensation and retirement costs.

UC and CSU are being shortchanged because the state is allocating ever-larger amounts of budget money to healthcare corporations, employee compensation and retirement costs. Together those categories now capture >70 percent of the budget, as explained here. As one example, just 56,500 government employees in a single state department will capture $5 billion in salary, $1.5 billion more than the state will allocate to UC or CSU.

In contrast, Rhode Island recently proposed two years of free college for its citizens using money generated in part by savings from fiscal reforms to retirement and healthcare spending.

A recent study named CalState LA as the top university in the country for upward mobility. Closing the income gap requires well-funded public universities providing broad access. Governor Brown and the state legislature should attack the compensation, healthcare and retirement spending that’s crowding out spending on California’s public universities.

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