Community Colleges Win Big in Governor Brown’s Higher Education Budget

Topics: Bachelor's Degrees, Community Colleges, Degree Attainment, Enrollment, Four-Year Colleges, Sub-Baccalaureate Degrees

Image Credit: Charlie Kaijo

The 2018-2019 budget submitted by Governor Brown on January 10 lays out his plan to spend $131.7 billion in the upcoming year. The spending plan is considerably more conservative than last year’s enacted budget, yet it increases funding for all higher education segments and provides significant funds for several new student success opportunities.

Here’s our analysis of how the budget impacts California’s higher education system.

The Governor’s budget proposes a moderate increase in General Funds for higher education over 2017-2018, including:
  • $18.5 billion earmarked for higher education (General Fund expenditures)
  • A proposed increase of 3.5% from last year’s $17.8 billion General Fund allocation with a 6.5% increase for California Community Colleges, a 3% increase for California State University, and a 3% increase for the University of California.
Community Colleges receive most of the funding augmentations in the Governor’s proposed budget for a series of new initiatives.
  • A 115th California Community College, completely online
  • An updated growth funding formula for community college districts
  • Full funding for the California Promise Grant program
  • New investments in CTE and adult education
  • Proposed consolidation and increased funding of two student success initiatives for Cal Grant B recipients: The Full Time Student Success Grant and the Community College Completion Grant
Private, non-profit institutions would be eligible to maintain the current Cal Grant award rate of $9,084 per student if institutions meet new enrollment goals for Associate Degrees for Transfer students.
  • WASC-accredited private institutions must meet a 2,500 ADT student transfer rate in the first year, increasing to 3,000 ADT student transfers each subsequent year.
University of California and California State University receive the standard 3% General Fund increase.
  • UC would see a $92.1 million increase, significantly less than was expected by the institution.
  • CSU would also see a $92.1 million increase, also significantly less than requested.

What effects could the 2018-2019 proposed budget have on student access and success, degree attainment, and stronger coordination among our higher education segments?

An online community college offers new opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students.

The 115th community college, part of Governor Brown’s and the CCC Chancellor’s Office’s Flex Learning Options for Workers, aims to deliver greater access for underrepresented students and breaks down barriers to re-entry for the millions of adults in California who have attended some college but have not completed their degree. We applaud the innovative efforts to reach new students and close our looming 2.4 million degree gap. However, unanswered questions remain about the level of support students will receive and whether the proposed fiscal investments in programmatic capacity will meaningfully impact the number of working adults who earn a degree.

The new CCC growth funding formula prioritizes completion—a critical step in preparing students for current and future workforce opportunities in the innovation economy.

The proposed funding formula will almost certainly shift the playing field for community college districts in terms of who sees increases and who sees cuts to their funding. The hold harmless clause currently included in the budget would mean that no district would see cuts to funding in the first year, but subsequent funding levels would reward districts for higher completion rates and for serving more low-income students. While questions remain about how the new funding formula will interact with the California College Promise initiative, the steps being taken to improve low completion rates are long overdue and very welcome.

New investments in workforce skills and CTE is good for California’s education-to-employment pipeline.

Across races, genders, and state regions, K12 students face uniquely different—and unequal—opportunity structures. Increasing investment in K12 CTE and the Strong Workforce Program will increase educational and economic opportunity for students and enhance the goals of the newly implemented Guided Pathways initiative at California Community Colleges.

An increase of $264.3 million for deferred maintenance at California Community Colleges highlights a lack of new funds for capital improvements at other segments.

Deferred maintenance at all three segments is a serious problem. Campuses rely on capital improvements and investments to maintain safe, efficient facilities. Funds earmarked for CCC infrastructure spending are a combination of a one-time increase of $264 million and $10.9 million in Prop 98 settle-up funds (money guaranteed to CCC when revenue growth projections are under-calculated). No further appropriations are granted for UC or CSU, maintaining the anticipated strain on capacity at four-year campuses in the coming years, as demand for four-year institutions continues to increase.

Like all budgets, this proposal is an expression of our state priorities. There are going to be winners and losers. Governor Brown has taken an energized approach to systemic change by betting on the California Community Colleges. From the release of its latest Strategic Vision, to supporting the statewide implementation of a free year of college, to proposing an expansion of education opportunities for working adults, the California Community Colleges have clearly captivated the attention of the Governor—their willingness to participate in a give-and-take relationship with the administration appears to have paid off in this proposed budget.