Governor Brown Releases Details on Education Plan

    Gov. Jerry Brown released budget proposals earlier this month for California’s higher education systems that would increase funding for the University of California, the California State University system, and the California Community Colleges system.

    As stated in Gov. Brown’s report, the funding increases would be used for improvements throughout these higher education systems. The funds would be distributed to paying debts, employee pension costs and community colleges, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 12. Brown’s 40-page report was released on Feb. 12.

    Gov. Brown asked the California Legislature to pass a $1.4 billion increase for the 2013–2014 fiscal school year; this is a 13 percent increase in funding from the 2012–2013 fiscal year. The UC system in total would receive a $250 million increase, with $10 million for each UC and CSU campus. Community colleges would receive up to $16.9 million to fund more online courses.

    However, nonpartisan policy advisor at the Legislative Analyst’s Office criticized Gov. Brown’s proposals and said many of the goals could be reached with existing resources. Instead of providing $10 million for each campus to expand online education, LAO suggests a low-cost $1 million instead to widen the use of existing courses.

    A Feb. 16 opinion piece in The Daily Californian argues that Gov. Brown’s plans to improve higher education are vague and are seen as “undefined performance expectations” because the funds are “unallocated.” The state legislative analyst questioned Gov. Brown’s proposal, as this year’s increases in funding toward the public higher education system had unclear expectations.

    LAO said that Gov. Brown’s proposal had good general topics but that it lacked details regarding what improvements the funding would be allocated toward. The legislative analyst suggested that extra funding should be used to improve enrollment and student performance.

    Brown’s proposal also received criticism from the office for taking “key higher-education decisions out of the Legislature’s control,” as LAO wrote in its review. Because of the unclear distribution of increased funds and the expectations that follow, analysts do not agree that the proposal should pass.

    Another major concern was the topic of tuition. Gov. Brown proposed a tuition freeze that would keep tuition from increasing for the next four years. While this may seem like a favorable proposal to current students, the analyst’s office disagreed with the plan, arguing that future students might be hit hard with tuition increases. The office asked the legislature to reject Brown’s proposal, for the analysts said it could likely lead to steep tuition increases in the coming years if another economic struggle arrives.

    The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Feb. 13 that LAO said that California students currently pay roughly 30 percent of UC and CSU costs and 6 percent of community college costs through tuition, after state and financial aid distributed to students.

    “When the state’s done it in the past, usually it keeps for a couple years, but when there’s another economic downturn, then you’ll see a huge spike in tuition,” LAO higher education analyst Paul Golaszewski said. “What we think is a better idea is doing moderate, steady increases. They are predictable and would help decrease volatility.”

    The office of analysts suggested that low-cost programs should be utilized while there is still room to cut the UC system’s budget. According to the analyst’s report, average per-student spending on UC campuses is over 20 percent higher than at other public universities. LAO hopes that the legislature will take into account its own report reviewing Brown’s proposals.

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