Voters & Policymakers

What does Sacramento need to know?

California’s public higher education system touches everyone in the state. No other public service offered by State government is the object of so many hopes and dreams.

The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California has consistently found that Californians strongly support public higher education (October 2007, November 2008, November 2009, and November 2010):

• 97% of likely voters say California’s higher education system is somewhat (20%) or very important (77%) to the quality of life and economic vitality of the state over the next 20 years.

• 77% say Higher Education is very important to future quality of life and economic vitality in California.

• 79% of likely voters say it is important for state government to spend more pubic funds to increase capacity in public colleges and universities.

• But as student fees have climbed and state support has been withdrawn, likely voters who have confidence in state government’s ability to plan for the future of California public higher education has dropped from 58% (2007) to 36% (2009).

Similarly, the independent Field Poll found (April 2009):

• Two-thirds of voters oppose spending cuts in higher education to reduce the state deficit (67% to 31%).

What specific steps could we take to restore public trust… and accountability?

To rebuild popular trust in a system too often abused, UC and CSU governance must be reformed to make it accountable again, while maintaining the independence essential to their academic mission.

  • The UC Regents and CSU Trustees should publish compensation scales for executive positions.
  • UC and CSU executive compensation (including any compensation not available to employees in general, e.g. special retirement plans) should be set at the amount that a comparable position paid in 2000, adjusted for the average growth in compensation for all full-time UC and CSU employees.
  • Executive compensation should increase no faster than the average rate of growth in compensation for all full-time employees in each system. (Learn more and comment on accountability and executive compensation.)

State conflict of interest and conflict of commitment laws should be stringently enforced and extended to university administrators and Regents who deal with privately funded projects and public-private partnerships. Such partnerships can also create institutional conflicts of interest for UC and CSU, which should not be allowed to distort academic resource and hiring decisions.

  • UC and CSU should in no way subsidize projects or services performed for private-sector entities unless such activities are consistent with each system’s traditional public service mission and the principle of transferring knowledge openly, for the good of society.
  • Private support for UC and CSU should be as transparent as public support, and should be accompanied by similar safeguards for academic freedom and faculty roles in campus governance. Private sector relationships, whether contracts or gifts, should be subject to full disclosure.

Instead of keeping its promise to the latest generation of students, the State has drained resources from public colleges and universities.

Abandoning the Master Plan for Higher Education that has served the state well for forty years, students who have worked hard and met the high standards for UC and CSU are not being allowed to enroll and students are being forced out of downsized Community Colleges. Beyond closing doors, academic programs at all levels are being decimated, ideals of fairness are compromised.

As our higher education system is further degraded, it will take decades for California to recover from the setback, socially and economically – if it ever does. We cannot afford to waste the potential this generation offers. We cannot afford to break the bipartisan promise that made California great.

Requiring a 2/3 vote to set taxes and fees makes it more difficult to fund public programs, but public higher education can be restored even with the 2/3 rule.

Restoring state funding for the community colleges, state universities and University of California — rolling back student fees, while making the system more accountable — will cost $4.6 billion, according to our analysis.

$4.6 billion is a lot of money, but plug it into the California income tax tables. The median taxpayer would only need to pay $32 more each year. Two-thirds of all state tax payers, with taxable incomes as high as $60,000, would pay less than $86. 540 Calculator: What restoring the system will cost you.

What are the key strategic steps to change the public debate?

Higher education is highly valued — and the system can be restored if we act quickly. The Master Plan offers us a blueprint for a fully functioning system. But as long as taxes remain a taboo subject, voters will always fear the worst and never be given the chance to see that solutions are affordable.

UC and CSU leadership also need to be honest with the public and public policy makers about the true nature of the choice before California in terms of the future of higher education, rather than continuing to allow the system to slide into a substantially  smaller or privatized model without any explicit decision being made to do so.

Contact your Legislator:

Use our campus map to find who represents you and how to contact them.

Resources:

The California Budget Project, “Top 10 Budget Myths … and the Truth,” March 10, 2010.

The California Budget Project, “Options for Closing the Budget Gap,” February 4, 2010.

Council of UC Faculty Associations, “Financial Options for Restoring Quality and Access to Public Higher Education in California,” December, 2009.

Tom Mortenson, “California at the Edge of a Cliff: The Failure to Invest in Public Higher Education is Crushing the Economy and Crippling Our Kids’ Future,” January 7, 2009.

Hans Johnson and Ria Sengupta, “Closing the Gap: Meeting California’s Need for College Graduates,” April, 2009.

PPIC, “Statewide Survey on Californians and Higher Education”, Novemberm 2009.

Legislative Analyst Office, “The Master Plan at 50: Assessing California’s Vision for Higher Education,” November, 2009.

Council of UC Faculty Associations, How to Restore the Promise, March 2008.