With an unexpected surplus of $76 billion, Governor Gavin Newsom shared details on his massive 2021-22 May Revision budget proposal that include transformative investments for higher education and workforce. Combined with over $25 billion in federal relief, this May Revision is part of a $100 billion California Comeback Plan the governor proposed with the goal of providing immediate relief to those who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and help the state recover faster. It is significant that the governor committed to setting a college degree attainment goal of 70 percent of California adults (ages 25-64) which also includes associate’s degrees and long-term certificates—aligning with the research and policy goal California Competes has been advancing.
The investments proposed in the May Revise aim to allow the state to reimagine our higher education institutions’ key role in the state’s recovery, which California Competes has been advocating for this year. Specifically, we identified five key goals to enhance our economic recovery:
- Enhancing higher education and workforce alignment
- Enabling postsecondary access and success for adults
- Expanding quality online education, including broadband access for all
- Launching a comprehensive Cradle-to-Career Data system
- Creating an independent and transparent higher education coordinating entity
We are pleased that this year’s proposed investments could advance nearly all of these strategies to help our state grow even stronger and allow our communities to thrive. However, our state still needs a transparent and independent higher education coordinating entity in order to effectively and equitably implement the budget proposals. Below, we identify the significant higher education investments by these key goals and discuss how a coordinating entity could accelerate and deepen their impact.
Enhancing higher education and workforce alignment
Building on his January budget proposal that focused on prioritizing and strengthening the linkage between higher education and employment, the May Revise notably includes several significant investments to advance postsecondary-workforce alignment, including:
- $1 billion one-time funds split evenly over two years to establish the Learning-Aligned Employment program, which aims to provide learning-aligned, long term career development for students at the University of California, California State University, and the California Community Colleges and prioritize employment opportunities for underrepresented students, specifically those in STEM fields
- More than $433 million one-time funds to designate Humboldt State University as the third polytechnic institution, which could increase the diversity of students in STEM-related fields
- $157 million one-time funds for a regional workforce investment package between the California Workforce Development Board and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office
- $42 million to the Employment Training Panel to leverage existing community college contract education units to provide small businesses with new and incumbent employee training
- Increase of $20 million one-time funds to support the California Community Colleges’ participation in the High Roads Training Programs and regional partnerships
- Increase of approximately $12.4 million ongoing funds to increase California Community College Strong Workforce Program funding (represents a 5 percent increase)
- Increase of $10 million one-time funding to develop work-based learning opportunities in cloud computing as well as zero emissions and supply chain fields
Enabling postsecondary access and success for adults
In addition to recognizing the importance of higher education as a key pathway for students to develop the skills needed in order to drive the state’s economy, the governor highlights adult college students as a key group to support as they navigate both their careers and the education system. Investments that support adult college students include:
- $4 billion one-time funds over two years to establish a low-cost student housing grant program, which will address the significant cost barrier many adult students face when enrolling
- $1 billion one-time college or business development grant program for workers displaced by COVID-19 to reskill and upskill so they can advance on a path toward economic mobility and security. At least half of this funding will be used for student parents
- Increase of $10 million one-time funds to pilot implementation of competency-based education at select community colleges
- $10 million one-time funds to plan for and begin developing a common course numbering system throughout the California Community Colleges to help students better identify courses needed to complete a degree or certificate
- Increase of $10 million ongoing funds for the California Community Colleges systemwide acquisition of software that visualizes and clearly maps out curricular pathways for students, helping them choose and stay on their educational journeys
Expanding quality online education, including broadband access for all
The May Revision also includes a $7 billion investment in broadband infrastructure and affordability, which comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, to be spent over three years. This investment would support the millions of Californian adults who intend to enroll in college soon and want online courses and increase access and opportunity for low-income college students. Investments in online education from the January proposal remain intact.
Launching a comprehensive Cradle-to-Career Data system
The May Revise maintains the Cradle-to-Career Data system proposal from the January Proposal with some amendments to the trailer bill language.
California Competes is pleased that the governor’s proposal focuses on leveraging the enormous scale of resources to make systemic changes and the attention paid to correcting opportunity imbalances.
Dr. Su Jin Gatlin Jez
“California Competes is pleased that the governor’s proposal focuses on leveraging the enormous scale of resources to make systemic changes and the attention paid to correcting opportunity imbalances,” said California Compete Executive Director Dr. Su Jin Gatlin Jez. “These proposals have the potential to accelerate our economic recovery and correct pervasive inequities.”
Proposals underscore need for greater coordination
This is an unprecedented time when we must make extraordinary reforms to higher education to allow communities and our economy to thrive, especially for the 6.8 million Californians with a high school diploma but no college degree. However, in order for the transformative proposals in the May Revise to succeed, we cannot overlook the state’s current inability to effectively implement, monitor, and improve cross-segment, cross-sector reforms. For this, California needs a higher education coordinating entity that is responsible for complex multi-stakeholder efforts, putting the state’s and students’ needs ahead of any individual’s system. The entity would also be responsible for evaluating the reforms, allowing the state to assess these unprecedented investments and pivot as needed.
We look forward to continuing working with the governor and his staff, along with the California State Legislature to ensure these proposals equitably serve our communities, economy, students, and the millions of California adults who will now have new reasons to complete their degree.