Blog: Sharing NEWS & PERSPECTIVES

Stay up to date with the latest news and information on California higher education. Plus, blogs that are unabashedly pro-higher education, offering what you need to know to be a passionate advocate for our colleges and universities.

New event: Meet the new leaders of UC, CSU and our Community Colleges

Donate and sign up online. Go to the California Coalition for Public Higher Education Issues Committee’s EveryAction donation page.

To print this RSVP form, access this PDF of the sign up form

 

In the LA Times: The UC system needs taxpayers to be more generous and reliable

On August 3, 2021, the Los Angeles Times published this letter to the editor from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education:

As UC Board of Regents Chairwoman Cecilia Estolano said, the future of the state and nation depend on the University of California system expanding its capacity to educate the great leaders of the future.

Expanding UC capacity requires substantial and sustained state investments in facilities and faculty. But California’s public universities don’t have dedicated funding streams or constitutional protections. The state’s current budget provided substantial increases in funding but cannot make up for all the losses over the past several years.

One-time investments are not enough. Sustained and reliable sources of funding are critical to recruiting the new faculty and adding and improving the facilities needed to expand our public university system’s capacity and ensure a stronger future for our state and nation.

Op-Ed: Burdensome legislation would stall construction at University of California

On July 7, 2021, CalMatters published this op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Burdensome legislation would stall construction at University of California“:

Education, infrastructure and economic stimulus are near the top of our nation’s agenda now. But here in California, the Legislature is considering a bill that would discourage progress on all three fronts.

Senate Bill 132 would stop the University of California from moving ahead with badly needed capital improvement projects unless the university submits to a costly and cumbersome annual certification process sought by one public employee union.

There’s a lot at stake.

California’s renowned UC system is an economic powerhouse widely credited for spurring progress, innovation and opportunity.

Faced with the need to support growing enrollment, additional student housing, earthquake safety improvements, deferred maintenance, health care and much more, UC is planning to make billions of dollars in capital improvements — all of which will help boost California’s economy as it recovers from the pandemic recession. At UC medical centers alone — the institutions responsible for many of our state’s medical advances — the estimated cost for capital projects over the next 10 years is $13.7 billion.

Californians throughout the state would benefit from these improvements, as well as from the high-paying jobs created in the construction and materials industries. Yet the bill’s proponents seem willing to put these benefits on hold — or at least delay them substantially — to protect the special interests of a few.

Their bill would withhold funds for all construction and capital improvements each year until a lengthy audit can certify that no contracted support service labor is – or ever was – employed across most UC capital projects, with no exceptions, even for emergencies or other unexpected circumstances.

Such legislation should never have made it out of committee. But it is a budget “trailer bill,” which is legislation drafted after the state budget’s approval without any meaningful public notice or debate.

This legislation is simply unnecessary. Senate Bill 820, which was signed into law just last year, requires the university to certify each year that UC has not contracted out any portion of work that is traditionally performed by people represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The law applies to certain university facilities built after 2017.

Instead of giving SB 820 a chance to work, proponents of SB 132 want to impose a brand-new set of requirements. They would expand certification requirements to include all capital expenditures, even those secured without state support, such as grants, private gifts and campus and hospital funds.

UC would have to provide a complete certification of direct employment for all service work as a condition of being allowed to encumber funds for any of the university’s new or ongoing capital projects. That means critical seismic or life safety improvements and student housing projects could be halted every year for months at a time while awaiting the audit.

UC also would have to provide a look-back — or retrospective certification — of direct employment since the year in which each UC site benefited from an allocation of public funds. This would require an independent audit and certification that includes the names, hours worked and start and end dates for each contract worker.

The audit would tie up UC projects in red tape and delay much-needed construction projects, leading to increased costs, more deferred maintenance and less earthquake safety on campuses.

The trailer bill singles out UC. That’s unfair — and ironic — because the UC system is the state’s third largest employer, directly employing about 229,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff. As we emerge from the pandemic, UC’s role in our economic recovery continues to be vital: UC-related spending and activities support more than 529,000 jobs. That’s 2% of California’s total jobs, or 1 in 45 jobs in the state.

No wonder California’s building trade unions have joined UC and the California Coalition for Public Higher Education in opposing SB 132. The bill would discourage economic activity, postpone needed improvements and compromise the university’s ability to train and prepare students. We urge the Legislature to reject it.

New letter to the editor: “CSUN gets $40M donation, the largest in school history”

On June 20 and 21, 2021, Southern California News Group published this letter to the editor from Dan Chernow, president of the CSU Northridge Alumni Association and executive director of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education – Education Fund in response to their article, “CSUN gets $40M donation, the largest in school history”:

MacKenzie Scott’s incredibly generous donations to 12 CSU campuses and the California Community Colleges speaks to their vital role in preparing all our young people for a changing economy. Producing skilled workers is critical to America’s future and its ability to secure prosperity and broaden economic opportunity for all, including those who are under-represented.

As CSU Northridge Alumni Association president and California Coalition for Public Higher Education education executive director, I wish to express appreciation and thanks for recognizing the role public higher education plays in pursuing social justice.

I also wish to remind our lawmakers that continued financial support is needed for all the state’s public higher education institutions. While the budget the legislature approved this week also helps to close the gap, sustained support is needed to fulfill the promise of success that public higher education holds for people from all walks of life.

Read the letter to the editor on the Daily News website.

New Capitol Weekly guest column: “Public higher education: Key to economic vitality”

On June 10, 2021, Capitol Weekly published this column from Dan Chernow, president of the CSU Northridge Alumni Association and executive director of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education – Education Fund and Michael Woo, dean emeritus of the College of Environment Design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and a California Coalition for Public Higher Education board member, titled, “Public higher education: Key to economic vitality“:

At a time when the United States is seeking to expand economic opportunity and address social inequities, Californians should vigorously support an institution that does both: our public colleges and universities.

The state’s higher education system has long been the envy of the world. The University of California, California State University (CSU) and California Community Colleges provide the critical skills, social mobility and innovation that have helped make California the world’s fifth largest economy. A highly educated workforce is one of the reasons that so many businesses and entrepreneurs continue to locate here.

A recent report calls particular attention to CSU’s massive economic contribution. The report points out that CSU is the largest four-year university system in America, and that its 23 campuses award nearly half of all bachelor’s degrees in the state.

All in all, CSU accounts for almost $27 billion of economic activity and $1.6 billion in state and local taxes.

CSU prepares students for economic participation – it produces more than 100,000 job-ready graduates annually – and spurs entrepreneurial activity throughout the state. Yet it is one of the most affordable public universities in America, and its campuses rank among the best in the nation for value, social mobility and return on investment. For every $1 that it receives from California, CSU generates nearly $7.

The mission of public colleges and universities is becoming more urgent every day.

White-collar workers and knowledge-intensive industries like technology went largely unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But others – such as restaurant and hotel workers – were hit hard.

The Brookings Institute observed that COVID-19 and the associated economic shutdowns “created a crisis for all workers, but the impact was greater for women, non-white workers, lower-wage earners and those with less education.”

The pandemic’s economic fallout has underscored the importance of preparing our young people for a changing economy. Producing skilled workers is critical to America’s future and its ability to secure prosperity and broaden economic opportunity for all, including those who are under-represented.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has noted that college graduates receive larger wage gains and more benefits than workers without bachelor’s degrees. Indeed, a bachelor’s degree holder in California earns nearly twice as much as a high school graduate does.

California’s colleges and universities teach students how to think, adapt, work together and solve complex problems – skills that are critical in today’s evolving economy. That may be one reason that graduates weather recessions better and benefit more when the economy recovers.

A growing number of industries need highly skilled employees, and many of them are facing talent shortages. California has begun to close the college degree gap but still needs to do more to meet the demand for higher education from students and their parents.

To address this issue, California’s colleges and universities are going to need stable funding from state and federal government.

We’ve made progress, but we need to do more.

The 2021-22 budget proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom would increase higher education spending and includes a promise that tuition and student fees won’t be increased. The state’s public colleges and universities and their students will also benefit from a boost in funding from the American Rescue Plan approved earlier this year.

But their budgets took a big hit during the COVID-19 shutdowns, when they lost income from dining, housing and other on-campus services and experienced increases in costs for new technology to shift to online instruction and other pandemic-related expenses. They also have never fully made up for the funding losses public higher education suffered during the 2008-2012 recession.

Support for our public colleges and universities is a down payment on California’s future, an investment in our economy and the promise of success for people from all walks of life. It is an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up.

Read the op-ed on the Capitol Weekly website.

Response to guest column: More funding for higher ed, not a new Master Plan

On May 6, 2021, CalMatters published this response from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, to the guest column titled, “California needs a new Master Plan for Higher Education“:

California’s public higher education institutions do need more funding. But Nils Gilman’s financing plan would “rob Peter to pay Paul” by taking all state funding from the UC system to make up for inadequate state funding for the CSU and CCC systems.

His plan would require big UC tuition increases, which would limit access to just the wealthiest students and those students who would qualify for scholarships. At a time when California and the country are seeking to expand economic opportunities and address social inequities, we should vigorously support funding to increase, rather than limit, access to all our public colleges and universities.

As California Coalition for Public Higher Education co-chairs, we believe that support for the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems is an investment in their promise of success for people from all walks of life and in a strong future for our state’s economy.

New op-ed: California’s public higher ed system shaping nation’s leaders

On April 16, 2021, CalMatters published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “California’s public higher ed system shaping nation’s leaders“:

The election of Vice President Kamala Harris and the appointment of several Californians to top posts in the new administration signal not only the state’s renewed clout in the nation’s capital but also the influential role our world-class public higher education system plays in shaping leaders and expanding diversity at the upper echelons of government.

Harris, a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law, is the nation’s first woman, first person of color and first UC-affiliated person to ever hold the vice presidency. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus, is the first woman to hold that powerful position, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas graduated from UC Berkeley and is the first Latino and immigrant leader of the Department of Homeland Security.


These appointments and others underscore how California’s public higher education system creates strong and diverse leaders and helps combat economic and social inequities. But leaders at UC, California State University  and California Community Colleges recognize they need to do more to increase diversity among faculty, staff and the student population. Each is moving forward with initiatives to achieve these goals, and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal to increase funding for these initiatives deserves the Legislature’s support.

Among these initiatives, California Community Colleges, the state’s primary entry point into collegiate degree programs, has already met its 2022 goal of a 20% increase in students receiving credentials, and it is narrowing the achievement gap for students of color. California Community Colleges also is increasing flexibility in its courses, credit and support to meet the needs of an older and increasingly diverse student population. And it’s working to help struggling students secure housing and food, so they can focus on learning and reaching their goals.

CSU Board of Trustees and UC Board of Regents have developed multi-year plans to eliminate achievement gaps, with CSU seeking to eliminate gaps by 2025 and UC by 2030. Graduation rates at CSU, one of the nation’s largest and most diverse public universities, are at an all-time high, granting 62% of all bachelor’s degrees earned by California’s Latinx students and 47% of all bachelor’s degrees earned by the state’s Black students.

The governor’s budget proposal would continue these gains by providing state funding to CCC, CSU and UC to help close equity gaps, promote completion, fuel innovation and support students’ upward economic mobility. A recent agreement with legislative leaders would also restore previously enacted reductions, effective July 1, for UC and CSU. And the governor’s proposal assumes no increase in tuition and fees in 2021-22.

While the budget proposal won’t make up for all the funding losses over the past several years at the state’s colleges and universities, it will help them continue to provide the ladders to success for students from backgrounds and train the diverse leaders we need.

Over the past year, the U.S. has faced a long overdue reckoning of the racial and economic divides that persist in our nation. This moment in time demands urgent action to achieve equity in higher education to give students from all walks of life equal access and opportunities. Now is not the time to falter or fail. Now is the time to invest in all our young people.

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Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine have also written about how public universities and colleges can serve as economic engines, how the state’s economic recovery depends on investing in California higher education and how federal investments are needed for the state’s higher education system in the fight against COVID-19.

New op-ed: Public universities and colleges can serve as economic engines to drive economy out of pandemic slump

On February 25, 2021, CalMatters published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Public universities and colleges can serve as economic engines to drive economy out of pandemic slump.” Here’s an excerpt:

The University of California, California State University and California’s Community Colleges are economic engines for the state. They provide jobs, workforce training and innovations. But they need the fuel of stable state and federal funding sources to help drive the state’s recovery as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The op-ed continues:

The 2021-22 budget proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom would increase their budgets by 3% and includes a promise that tuition and student fees won’t be increased. The governor, in an agreement with legislative leaders announced last week, signed legislation this week that restored previously enacted reductions, effective July 1, for UC and CSU. We appreciate these proposed increases and restorations of lost funding amid the pandemic’s downturn in revenues and increase in demands on the state budget.

But future budgets will need to make up for the funding losses public higher education suffered during the 2008-12 recession, the COVID-19 reductions in income from dining, housing and other on-campus services and the increased costs for new technology to shift to online instruction and other pandemic-related expenses.

Read the complete op-ed on the CalMatters’ website.

New op-ed: UC Nobel winners underscore value of investments in higher education

On October 14, 2020, the San Francisco Chronicle published this op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “UC Nobel winners underscore value of investments in higher education“:

The awarding of the Nobel Prizes to three University of California faculty members this month underscores the importance of the state’s world-class public higher education system to advancing the pace of discovery and innovation that fuels economic growth and improves lives.

UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry with colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier for the co-development of CRISPR-Cas9, a genome editing breakthrough that has revolutionized biomedicine.

This technology allows scientists to rewrite DNA — the code of life — in any organism, including human cells. It has opened the door to treatments for thousands of diseases as well as new possibilities across biology and agriculture.

UC Berkeley Professor emeritus Reinhard Genzel and UCLA Professor Andrea Ghez shared half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics for “the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy.”

They join a proud legacy of the UC system winning Nobel Prizes that stretches back to 1939 and includes 68 faculty and staff who have been awarded 69 Nobel Prizes. Their discoveries have advanced medicine, economics, physics and more, powering innovations that improve lives and strengthen the state’s and the nation’s economy.

To support them and help invigorate the economy, the state and federal government must continue to invest in California’s world-class public higher education system. The strength of the state’s economy will be critical to the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus downtown because California accounts for nearly 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The state’s public higher education system is critical to California’s economy. The UC system alone is the state’s third-largest employer and, along with the CSU, contributes over $60 billion to California’s economy every year.

As the world’s largest public research university system, UC is also responsible for sparking statewide innovation, with an average of five inventions per day. CSU is essential to the state’s workforce. One in every 10 employees in California is a graduate of CSU, and more than half of its alumni stay in California.

Yet California’s per-student funding is still far behind where it was in the mid-1970s, and that has driven up tuition, reduced course offerings, caused faculty to leave and increased time to graduation.

Now COVID-19 is ravaging public higher education’s finances. Responding to the pandemic has driven up costs as instruction shifted online and reduced income from dorms, dining and other “enterprise” programs. The state budget also cut $970 million from UC and CSU budgets.

Most of that could be restored with federal coronavirus assistance, but that funding has not yet been approved. A recent UCLA economic forecast said the relief package is critical to the state’s recovery. The UCLA economists predicted that a full recovery from the coronavirus downturn will take more than two years but said that estimate is overly optimistic if Congress fails to allocate at least $1 trillion in fiscal stimulus before the end of the year.

As graduates of the UC system, we know the difference public higher education makes in the lives of students every day, and we see the importance of investing in it to strengthen the state’s economy and help us recover from the pandemic downturn.

We call on our state’s elected leaders to provide the needed funds to public higher education to continue to train and equip our future leaders and to support the research enterprise that has produced Nobel Prize-winning results. By doing so, we can continue to advance the pace of discoveries and innovations that improve both the personal health and the economic health of our state and our nation.

See the op-ed on the San Francisco Chronicle website.

New op-ed: Federal investments needed for state’s higher education system in fight against COVID-19

On August 6, 2020, CalMatters published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Federal investments needed for state’s higher education system in fight against COVID-19.” Here’s an excerpt:

From mapping the COVID-19 genome to treating the nation’s first case of community spread of the deadly virus, University of California researchers and physicians have been among the leaders in the global battle against coronavirus.

California State University researchers have  joined the fight as well with their own research initiatives, including developing low-cost ventilators and using artificial intelligence to design a model for predicting COVID-19 patients’ mortality risks to help physicians make informed treatment decisions.

It’s perhaps no surprise then to find that almost three in four Americans recognize research universities are essential weapons in the war on COVID-19 and in tackling other global challenges, and that more than half believe universities have a positive impact on our country.

The op-ed continues:

By acting now to send much-needed federal funds to the state, Congress can hasten our economic recovery and ensure California is ready and able to combat today’s public health emergency and future global challenges.

Read the complete op-ed on the CalMatters website.