January Budget Proposal Highlights Higher Education Priorities

With significant new investments in the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and the California Student Aid Commission, Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2019 budget proposal demonstrates his intent to keep his word to prioritize and strengthen California’s higher education system and its students. California Competes’ key priorities include policies to support adults returning to college, a longitudinal education data system for evidence-based decision-making, and an entity to coordinate California’s vast public system of higher education. We are pleased that this budget proposal addresses two of these priorities.

The proposal recognizes that adult college students represent a prime opportunity to close our state’s impending degree gap. California’s workforce needs, as the world’s fifth largest economy, are simply too great to be met by focusing only on traditional college-aged students. Specifically for adult students, the Governor’s budget proposal provides:

  • $15 million one-time general fund allocation for UC extension centers to better support adults who have some college but no degree to return to college and complete their degree or credential;
  • $247 million for deferred maintenance at CSU, including improving and expanding on-campus childcare centers, further supporting current or returning adults to complete their degree while balancing the pressures of family;
  • $121.6 million to provide Cal Grant access awards for UC, CSU, and CCC students with dependent children; and
  • $9.6 million to increase the number of Competitive Cal Grant awards, which tend to go to older students from lower-income households and who face substantial challenges to completing their postsecondary education.

We hope this reflects just the beginning of the Governor’s long-term commitment to modernize our higher education system and invest in our shared economic future.

“We are enthused that Governor Newsom has acknowledged through his budget that higher education provides the surest path to workforce readiness and economic mobility for millions of Californians who would benefit from earning a college degree or certificate,” said California Competes Deputy Director Ria Sengupta Bhatt. “We hope this reflects just the beginning of the Governor’s long-term commitment to modernize our higher education system and invest in our shared economic future.”

As detailed in our Back to College series, adults face a number of barriers that keep them from completing their degree. Lifting those barriers can help move them up from the margins of the economy. That includes designing the student experience to accommodate this population of four million Californians, as reflected in the Governor’s budget proposal.

In addition to advocating for investment in the adult student population, California Competes has long-championed another budget priority reflected in the Governor’s proposal: the establishment of a statewide longitudinal data system.

The Governor’s 2019 budget proposal includes $10 million to plan for and develop a longitudinal data system that will connect information from early education providers, K-12 schools, higher education institutions, employers, other workforce entities, and health and human service agencies. Data sits at the core of educational quality, accountability, and improvement. Aggressively addressing California’s degree gap through state policy requires a solid understanding of current and future student populations; effective policies, practices, and outcomes; as well as workforce demands.

This long overdue data system is a top policy priority for California Competes, along with a statewide coordinating entity designed to govern the state’s higher education system and serve as the home for the data system itself. By prioritizing the planning and development of the system, the state is well-positioned to establish such an entity.

We are optimistic about this initial budget proposal, and we look forward to working with the administration, legislature, students, and institutions to achieve a more accessible, transparent, and coordinated system of higher education for all Californians.

Full summaries of the January budget proposal are available online.

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