Newly-inaugurated California Governor Gavin Newsom released his 2019–20 budget proposal, which follows through on campaign promises by increasing funding for the UC, California State University (CSU), and California Community Colleges (CCC) systems.
“If colleges are to remain engines of economic mobility, they must evolve along with the state’s changing population and economy,” said the higher education section of the budget proposal. “Colleges and training programs must prepare students with the skills needed by employers not only today but into the future.”
The budget proposed a 6.2-percent ($240 million) increase to the ongoing General Fund allocation, which funds basic operating costs and other state programs every year. Specifically, much of the increase will go to specific educational programs. Newsom proposed $49.9 million to increase both timely degree completion and the number of graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds. But the funding has conditions attached: The UC system only gets this money if it promises not to increase tuition.
Newsom also proposed $138 million as one-time funding for infrastructure upgrades that the UC system was unable to previously complete due to lack of money, commonly referred to as “deferred maintenance.”
Both allocations were significantly higher than former Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal last year, which proposed a $98.1 million increase to the General Fund allocation and $105 million for deferred maintenance.
In addition, Newsom proposed funds to boost UC efforts to combat basic needs insecurity and campus mental health services. He proposed $15 million for basic needs and $5.3 million towards hiring more mental health professionals at campus mental health centers. Last year’s budget proposal also included mental health, but the legislature removed it before the budget was approved.
However, there is a discrepancy between the budget proposal’s basic needs allocation and the UC system’s 2019–20 budget. The UC budget, approved by the UC Board of Regents in November 2018, stated that the $15 million is not specifically for basic needs, but rather “to help students cover cost increases other than tuition and fees, including basic student needs such as food and housing.“
“I am excited by the Governor’s commitment to supporting student well-being,” UC Student Regent-designate Hayley Weddle told The Triton. “My hope is that the final version of the budget includes funding for both financial aid as well as programs and services addressing food and housing insecurity.”
In addition to an increase in UC funding, the governor also proposed an increase to CSU and CCC funding. Notably, Newsom allocated $40 million to make community college free for two years, following through on a key campaign promise to make education more affordable.
The proposal would increase funding for Cal Grant, but the funding request planned by the UC Student Association and Coalition for a Better UC to make Cal Grant also cover summer classes did not make it into the budget.
Despite the funding increases, there were mixed reviews from student leadership and the UC system.
The UC Student Association (UCSA), California State Student Association, and Student Senate for California Community Colleges released a joint statement saying that the budget does not go far enough to support access to education:
“Students need our state legislators, institutional leaders, and the Governor to step up and truly acknowledge the complete affordability crisis our students are facing.”
UC President Janet Napolitano and Chair of the UC Board of Regents George Kieffer also released a joint statement, but their statement praised Governor Newsom for taking a step in the right direction:
“Governor Newsom’s budget represents a welcome step and a solid down payment in addressing priorities of the university’s 2019–20 budget plan. These funds help further the academic mission of the university, from student success to classroom upgrades, financial aid to timely graduations.”
This budget proposal is not final and will go through a lengthy process before it is approved by the state legislature this summer. The legislature, working with the governor’s office, usually reduces numbers and cuts specific allocations before the budget is approved in June.
Ethan Edward Coston is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow him at @Ethan4Books.