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.

We must let more California students into public universities’ front door

On April 11, 2019, CALmatters published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “We must let more California students into public universities’ front door.” Here’s an excerpt:

In 2017, CSU was forced to deny admission to 30,000 eligible students. Far fewer than half the eligible applicants for UC admission are accepted and at some campuses, fewer than 15% of applicants are admitted.

The major factor in this shortfall in capacity is that the state has failed to adequately invest in higher education.

Despite budget surpluses and recent increases in state spending on higher education, per student funding for the University of California by the state is more than 30% lower than it was two decades ago. Tuition and fees exceed state dollars as a source of funding for UC’s core educational expenses.

The situation has begun to improve. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initial 2019-20 budget proposal calls for $1 billion combined increases for UC, CSU and the community colleges. The governor has wisely embraced the CSU budget request that will allow the system to expand enrollment and improve graduation rates.

But while Gov. Newsom’s January budget plan calls for a significant boost for the University of California, it falls about $200 million short of what is needed. In the past five years, UC has enrolled almost 5,000 additional students without the state paying any of its share for their costs.

Read the complete op-ed on the CALmatters website.

Higher Education Funding Momentum Must Continue

On March 15, 2019, Fox & Hounds published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Higher Education Funding Momentum Must Continue.” Here’s an excerpt:

The decisions by the University of California and California State University to hold the line on tuition increases in the Fall are welcome news, provided that Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislature follow through with robust increases in State funding for UC, CSU and our community colleges. Otherwise, educational quality will suffer and thousands of deserving students will be turned away.

It used to be that tuition was not a factor at the University as the State wisely underwrote the cost of education. That changed as the State began decades on a fiscal roller-coaster that produced boom and bust Budgets. In the process, much of the cost of college funding at both UC and California State University were shifted to students and their families in the form of tuition and fees. Today, per student State funding for UC is less than half of what it was in 1980-81 and tuition has risen accordingly, even as the system has become more efficient and cost effective.

Fortunately, State higher education funding has edged up in recent years and Governor Newsom’s first budget proposal in January represents a significant recommitment to investment in our higher education system. The Governor’s January blueprint calls for $1.4 billion in added support for UC, CSU and the community colleges. Still the boost of $240 million in operating support for UC is barely half what the University needs. The Governor’s January Budget proposal does cover CSU costs as projected.

The op-ed continues:

The increases in State higher education funding over the past few years have been a positive sign, but they have been accompanied by mandates to enroll more California students without the dollars to accommodate those additional students. That isn’t sustainable.

Read the complete op-ed on the Fox & Hounds website.

Op-Ed from Our Co-Chairs: Governor’s Higher Education Funding Proposal Off to a Good Start

On Jan. 22, 2019, Fox & Hounds published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Governor’s Higher Education Funding Proposal Off to a Good Start.” Here’s an excerpt:

Governor Gavin Newsom’s first Budget proposal has a good deal of hopeful news for higher education. Now, the devil will be in the details and in committing to ongoing funding, rather that the cyclical ups and downs that have undermined the University of California, California State University and our community colleges over the past several decades.

It is heartening that Governor Newsom has once again made higher education a State priority. The initial 2019-20 Budget proposal unveiled by the Governor includes more than a billion dollars in additional funding for the three sectors combined. This marks the most substantial higher education funding boost in more than a decade.

The University of California will receive an additional $240 million in operating funds—a 6.9% increase—plus a one-time outlay of $153 million, primarily for maintenance. CSU will receive an additional $318 million in operating funds—an 8% increase—plus a one-time allocation of $264 million. Community colleges will be getting an additional $401 million and the Governor is proposing that the State cover two-full years of free community college. This is all good news, but it is only a start. Public higher education is still recovering from years of underfunding by the State with much of the cost burden being shifted to students and their families.

The article concludes:

More State funding is critical for UC, CSU and the community colleges. It is also essential that State Budget allocations be ongoing and predictable. Too often, higher education has borne the brunt of dips in State revenue and its boom and bust fiscal rollercoaster. It has been too easy for decision-makers in Sacramento to sacrifice higher education funding whenever there is a Budget shortfall. That’s why per student State funding is still only fraction of what it was thirty years ago. Higher education fuels California’s good times and provides the essentials of productivity and innovation that enable us to reverse the bad times.

Governor Newsom deserves credit for a great start for higher education in his first Budget proposal. Now, the Governor and Legislature can roll up their sleeves to fill in the gaps and make sure that our outstanding higher education system has the resources needed for it to continue as the finest in the world.

Read the complete op-ed on the Fox & Hounds website.

Higher Education Coalition Leaders Laud Newsom Budget Proposal

Newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom has released his initial Budget proposal for the 2019-20 fiscal year.  Higher ed fared better in the Newsom proposal than it did in previous years.

Budget Response from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine—Co-chairs California Coalition for Public Higher Education:

“Governor Newsom should be congratulated for a constructive 2019-2020 Budget proposal that restores higher education as a State priority,” commented Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education.  “The University of California, California State University and our community colleges will have additional resources to maintain quality, expand access and ease the cost burden on students and their families.”

All three segments of the public higher education system will receive additional funds:

* The University of California will receive a $240 million increase (6.9%) in operating funds, plus an additional one-time outlay of $153 million, primarily for deferred maintenance.

* California State University will receive a $318 million increase (8%) for operations plus a one-time allocation of $264 million.

* California community colleges are slated to receive an added $401 million. The State would now cover two full years of free community college.

Op-Ed: Higher ed is a prerequisite for our future. Community colleges are key to that.

On Jan. 2, 2019, CALmatters published an op-ed by Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges and a regent of the University of California,  titled, “Higher ed is a prerequisite for our future. Community colleges are key to that.” Here’s an excerpt:

The entire education system and especially post-secondary education is charged with the monumental task of producing educated people who are informed, up to date, trained and enthusiastic about being part of the thriving whole. To be successful, a long-term view incorporating visionary, inclusive initiatives to improve higher education in California is required.

In other words, we must think big and be unapologetically bold.

California has significant challenges in workforce readiness, equity and poverty. But we start our next four-year chapter with a new governor, new education leaders and opportunities to improve education across the board and put in place ways to open the doors to higher education for all.

Data supporting the need to start this chapter with bold moves to improve California higher education is on the brink of being overwhelming. Not only is the country facing a skilled workforce shortage, but the future job market will require that more than 65 percent of workers possess a college degree or credential by 2020.

Such daunting realities clearly demand solutions that accommodate college-ready high schoolers, returning veterans and workers who need enhanced skills for economic mobility.

Keeping ahead of poverty is yet another proof point in the case for improving higher education in California, the state with 7.4 million people living in poverty.

The op-ed concludes:

All of these factors make it clear higher education is the lynchpin to our future. Now, as we enter a new era of leadership, we have a chance to be bold with solutions to ensure that the future is bright for Californians and the state economy alike.

Read the complete op-ed on the CALmatters website.

New op-ed: How Newsom could create a new golden era for higher education

On Dec. 7, 2018, CALMatters published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “How Newsom could create a new golden era for higher education.” Here’s an excerpt:

Pat Brown was a true champion of higher education, but Jerry Brown has never made support for the University of California or the Cal State system a big part of his agenda.

Now, incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom has the potential to pick up the mantle and, once again, make higher education a top state priority.

Californians get it.  A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that most voters say that there is not enough state funding for higher education.  Three-quarters of the electorate believes that higher education should be a high priority for our new governor.

Newsom has said that a significant increase in the investment in higher education is high on his agenda. With the state’s fiscal health in good shape, that should be possible.

The article concludes:

Boosting higher education funding would be a good start. But the new governor should address the future of our public higher education system and its integral role in the well-being of all Californians.

There is much to be done:

* Restore per-student state funding to traditional levels.

* Assure a stable, ongoing revenue flow from the state that will enable our higher education institutions to plan and grow responsibly.

* Make a long-term commitment for new classrooms, laboratories, faculty offices, technology and other infrastructure needs that will reverse years of neglect and provide state of the art facilities on our campuses.

* Harness new technology to enhance the educational experience, increase productivity and provide additional avenues for more Californians to access our higher education system.

If Gov. Newsom and Legislature, in concert with the leadership of UC, CSU and the community colleges—seriously tackle these challenges, the Newsom years could become a new golden age for California higher education.

Read the complete op-ed on the CALMatters website.

Californians want more funding for public higher education [videos]

Following the Nov. 14, 2018, release of a new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, which found most Californians believe higher education should be a top priority for the new governor, PPIC researcher Lunna Lopes outlined key findings in Sacramento.

The following day in San Francisco, PPIC president Mark Baldassare and Monica Lozano, president of the College Futures Foundation, talked about the survey’s implications for governor-elect Gavin Newsom.



The three leaders of California’s higher education systems joined in a civic event convened by the California Coalition for Public Higher Education.   University of California President Janet Napolitano, California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and California State University Chancellor Tim White spoke to the strides that have been made in the enrollment and graduation of California students and the fiscal challenges facing all three institutions.

President Napolitano and Chancellor Oakley reported on the unprecedented agreement that will assure all qualified community college graduates the opportunity to transfer to a UC campus.  Chancellor White highlighted CSU’s role as the primary source of teachers, engineers and other essential members of the state’s workforce.

Although all three leaders acknowledged the recent progress in gradually increasing State support for higher education, there was a recognition that overall State funding for higher education remains well below historic levels.  They also emphasized the critical need to address the infrastructure demands for all three systems.

Coalition Co-chair Mel Levine, who moderated the discussion, brought up concerns about some recent legislative efforts to micro-manage public higher education, which has traditionally benefited from the leadership of independent boards.

Nearly a hundred civic and community leaders attended the September 24 event at the Los Angeles home of Chip and Carrie Robertson.


UC campuses earn top spots on US News & World Report’s Best Colleges list

On September 10, 2018, the University of California issued a press release titled, “UC campuses earn top spots on US News & World Report’s Best Colleges list”:

University of California campuses scored half of the top 10 spots for the best public undergraduate education in the nation on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Best Colleges rankings released today (Sept. 10).

UCLA and UC Berkeley took the first and second spots, respectively, while UC Santa Barbara came in fifth. UC Irvine was No. 7, UC Davis was No. 10 and UC San Diego took the 12th spot this year. UC Santa Cruz (No. 26), UC Riverside (No. 35) and UC Merced (No. 67) rounded out the rankings.

The U.S. News & World Report ranks universities each fall to help inform prospective students’ decisions on where to apply, taking into account academic reputation, financial resources and selectivity in admissions.

This year, the magazine changed its methodology to better reflect social mobility in its overall rankings for both public and private universities. As a result, most UC campuses saw a significant rise in their standings. UC Riverside had the biggest improvement of any university nationwide, vaulting to No. 85 from No. 124, while UC Merced jumped to No. 136, up 29 spots.

Learn more about UC’s excellence in these and other rankings here.

New Op-Ed: Higher Education is Key to California Economy

On August 27, 2018, The Los Angeles Business Journal published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Higher Education is Key to California Economy”:

By Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine

Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine co-chair the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. Ackerman is a former California State Senator and Assemblyman, and Levine is a former U.S. Congressman and State Assemblyman

California continues to flourish and higher education is the secret sauce that nourishes the state’s economy.  Our world class academic institutions are at the center of the innovation, creativity, technological advances and biomedical breakthroughs that make California a national and international pacesetter. It is no wonder that the Golden State has the world’s fifth largest economy.

The backbone of California’s “brainpower advantage” is the state’s unmatched public higher education system that encompasses the University of California, California State University and  a statewide network of community colleges.  The challenge is to keep this system on top of its game, while competing with other State priorities.

The case for investment in public higher education is strong.  California community colleges are the largest provider of workforce training in the nation.  CSU is the largest source of the state’s diverse workforce.  For every dollar California invests in students who graduate from college, there is a $4.50 return on that investment.

In addition to its vital role in educating the scientists, engineers, physicians, educators, business executives and other professional and cultural leaders, the University of California is a research enterprise that is second to none.  UC has produced more than 1800 inventions.  There are more than 10,000 active patents based on UC research and more than a thousand new companies have been founded as a result of UC patents.  From critical medical advances to new horizons for agriculture, UC is contributing mightily to California’s economy and to the health and well-being of millions around the world.

Much of the success of UC, CSU and the community colleges flows from the wisdom of State leaders who had the vision to invest in building the world’s best public higher education system. But as the State has faced major fiscal challenges over the years, Sacramento’s commitment to higher education faltered. Per student State support for UC and CSU remain dramatically lower than it was two decades ago. This has forced tuition increases and handicapped the systems’ ability to accommodate qualified students.  Fortunately, that tide has begun to turn.  Per student State funding for community colleges is now at an all time high and recent State Budgets have begun to restore funding for UC and CSU.

Higher education funding, however, is nowhere near where it needs to be.  The Public Policy Institute of California has project that the California workforce will need more than a million additional college graduates within a decade.  More and more, productive careers depend on education beyond high school.  College graduate earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more during their careers than high school graduates.  Higher education is key to opportunity and to maintaining a dynamic economy.

In many respects public higher education is at a turning point in California.  With a new Governor, there will be a fresh opportunity to address the state’s commitment to higher education and to construct a long-term funding mechanism that will sustain and grow the system’s ability to serve the young Californians who are the state’s future and to serve as the linchpin of California’s economic success.

Given the programs and interests that will compete for every Budget dollar, it is imperative that those who recognize the vital role of higher education step up to the plate and advocate for making higher education a top State priority.  That particularly includes the business community that must make this issue front and center.