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.

UCLA writes about the California Coalition for Public Higher Education

On Jan. 8, 2018, UCLA Government and Community Relations published an article, “California Coalition for Public Higher Education Emerges As Key Partner.”  Here’s an excerpt:

As the public bemoans increasing partisan rancor in local, state and federal government, a new Political Action Committee (PAC) has quietly grown in prominence in California that is being driven by both Democrats and Republicans — showing a bipartisan way forward through an issue they can all agree on: funding higher education.

Former State Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman and former Democratic Congressmember and State Assemblymember Mel Levine are the “odd couple” as co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education (CCPHE), but to them, there is nothing weird about teaming up for an issue that is of paramount importance to keep California prominent in the nation and the world.

“There’s been an erosion of support for public higher education,” Levine said in a sit down with UCLA. “Candidly, I don’t fully understand why. Public higher education is absolutely indispensable to accomplish any number of important goals that the state of California has.” Particularly, he added, higher education is important for its role in social mobility and as the engine to educate a workforce for the economy of tomorrow.

The article concludes:

CCPHE has hosted multiple events bringing together the chancellors of all three segments to meet with influencers and PAC donors. The money raised has gone toward creating a de facto higher education caucus in the legislature. “There is now a cadre of strong supporters in the legislature who we work with and support politically,” Levine said, noting about a dozen legislators. “This is a real measure of success.”

Come the June 2018 primary, the PAC will have chosen a slate of candidates who have shown the willingness to put higher education first. “If legislators don’t make public higher education one of their top priorities, it just won’t get to the top of the list and funding won’t be there,” Levine said. Added Ackerman, “Most will say it is a priority, but they don’t put it at the top.”

The Coalition wants to step in where the universities and community colleges have to bow out — direct campaign contributions, which the public institutions are now allowed to participate in. “They couldn’t be as aggressive as someone from the outside,” Ackerman noted.

And the cause is more important than ever. “There was a time a number of years ago where it was said, in order to obtain a job to support your family, you needed a high school education,” Levine said. “Now, in order to perform many, many of the jobs in our information economy, you need at least a college education — and a high quality education — and often post secondary training. To an individual who wants to support his or her family, having a college education is absolutely essential.”

To help the cause, advocates can visit for opportunities to donate and participate in events. “We would welcome, encourage and warmly appreciate anybody reaching out to us on the website,” Levine said. “We would love to have you involved. This is an area we can make a difference where the University cannot.”

Read the complete article on the UCLA website.

Response to Governor Brown’s Initial 2018-19 Budget Proposal

Statement by Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine—Co-chairs California Coalition for Public Higher Education:

Although this Budget proposal includes very modest increases for the University of California, California State University, and the community colleges, these are well below the increase in the General Fund.  In other words, higher education’s share of the State General Fund would actually decrease.  This budget proposal is a step in the wrong direction, ignoring the need to enroll more California students on our campuses.   It is unrealistic and counterproductive to ask our great higher education system to do more with less.

January 10, 2018

NEW OP-ED: Higher Education Adds Up

On Jan. 5, 2018, 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 Adds Up.”  Here’s an excerpt:

The numbers tell the story.  California’s high schools are turning out more college eligible students than ever before and our community colleges, the University of California and the California State University system are making headway to accommodate increased demand.  The only lagging indicator is State funding for UC and CSU.

The op-ed concludes:

Even as our public higher system is making strides in serving growing demand without diminishing educational qualify, the State remains far behind in supporting these institutions.  Per student State funding for the community colleges is up about $1,000 from historic highs, but CSU per student funding is down about 20% and UC per student funding is about half of what it was 30 years ago.  This has shifted much of the cost burden to students and their families.

To their credit, Governor Brown and the Legislature have stopped the bleeding and made modest increases in higher education funding in recent years, but there is a long way to go.

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

NEW OP-ED: Californians Value Public Higher Education

On Nov. 8, 2017, Fox & Hounds published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Californians Value Public Higher Education.”  Here’s an excerpt:

A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 56 percent of the state’s residents think that affordability is a big problem in California’s public colleges and universities.  Three-quarters of Californians think the price of college keeps qualified and motivated students from attending and 79 percent worry that students must borrow too much money to pay for their college education.

One major source of the college affordability problem is the State’s pull back from funding higher education.  Per pupil funding is down about 40% from where it was in 1977 for the University of California and by more than 20 percent for the California State University system. Much of the burden for the shortfall in State funding has been borne by students and their families in the form of sharply increased tuition and fees.

We all pay a price for failure to adequately invest in higher education.  PPIC estimates that California’s economy will require an additional 1.1 million college graduates by 2030, when almost 40 percent of jobs will require a college degree. California’s thriving economy is built on the innovations, creativity and productivity of an educated workforce.  Without enough college graduates, the state’s economy is bound to falter.

The op-ed concludes:

The erosion of State support for higher education took place over decades, but we do not have decades to accommodate the young California men and women who want and deserve a first-rate college education.  We don’t have decades to provide the educated workforce needed to maintain our economic vitality.  Piecemeal increases won’t do the trick.  We need a solid commitment for the State to do its share for higher education once again.

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

The Need for College Graduates in California’s Future Economy

On November 1, 2017, Hans Johnson, director and senior fellow at the PPIC Higher Education Center, testified before the Assembly Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education in California. The master plan defined a strategy to meet the state’s education needs in 1960—but today, California faces new challenges. The topic of the hearing: ensuring that the master plan meets workforce needs.

Here’s an excerpt:

Our primary finding is that California faces a shortage of highly educated workers. Specifically, economic projections to 2030 show that about two in five jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree, while demographic projections suggest only about one in three Californians will have at least a bachelor’s degree. This shortfall equates to 1.1 million workers. …

To close the gap, California and its higher education institutions will need to establish new policies and practices to enroll more students, especially in our four-year colleges and universities, and ensure greater success of students already in college. In previous testimony, PPIC has identified targets for each of the state’s public systems with respect to admission, transfer (from community colleges to four-year colleges), and improved graduation rates. Improving access and success among groups historically underrepresented in higher education, including low-income students, first-generation college students, Latinos, and African Americans is essential if we are to close the degree gap.

The good news is that new goals adopted by the California State University (CSU) system and the California Community College system are entirely consistent with PPIC’s identified targets. New initiatives, including remediation reform at the community colleges and at CSU, have the potential to substantially increase student success. CSU’s new graduation initiative aims to substantially increase graduation rates and eliminate gaps between groups of students. Strong increases in college preparation among the state’s high school graduates are also a positive sign, with the share of students completing the college preparatory requirements of UC and CSU reaching an all-time high.

Finding ways to accommodate all these students remains a central challenge, but one we must meet in order to ensure a better future for all Californians.

Read his prepared remarks on the PPIC website.

New Op-ed: Big Picture Focus Needed for Higher Ed

On Sept. 28, 2017, Fox & Hounds published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Big Picture Focus Needed for Higher Education.”  Here’s an excerpt:

In recent years, there has been some progress in restoring a portion of the funding lost by higher education in State Budgets as the Legislature and the Governor’s office have sought to cope with a volatile economy and competing demands on the State’s resources.  Yet per student State funding for UC and CSU remains only a fraction of what it was two decades ago.

Too often, lately, legislators have focused on proposals to micro-manage the three systems, rather than addressing the imperative of bringing State support back to a level where our campuses can accommodate all qualified applicants seeking a first-rate education. Today, our high schools are producing more college ready graduates than was envisioned in the Master Plan in 1960—almost a third more for CSU and at least 10% more for UC.  It makes no sense for UC and CSU to have to shut the door on qualified California students.

Obviously, much has changed in the past 60 years.  California has experienced massive growth.  Technological change has remade our society and our economy.  Our population is highly diverse and filled with young people seeking opportunity.  California’s workforce needs have tilted decisively toward college graduates.

The Assembly Select Committee on the Master Plan should look at the big picture—how our higher education system can maintain excellence, sustain affordability for students and their families and improve access for those Californians ready and able.  California’s Master Plan continues to serve us well.  Our friends in the Capitol just need to find the dollars to keep its commitment of a quality education for each new generation.

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

Now for the hard part: translating vision for community colleges into student success

On July 18, 2017, EdSource reported, “Now for the hard part: translating vision for community colleges into student success.” The article reports on a new document titled “Vision for Success,” adopted by California’s Community College system.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

“Despite some modest gains in student outcomes, the community college system is not performing at the level needed to reliably provide students with opportunities for mobility and to meet California’s future workforce needs.”

The article continues:

The report sets a number of goals for the system, such as increasing by 20 percent the number of community college students who end up with associate degrees, or obtain certification for “specific skill sets that prepare them for an in-demand job.”

It sets a target of increasing by 35 percent the number of community colleges who transfer each year to UC and CSU. It calls for reducing the average number of units a community college student accumulates from 87 units to 79 units.

Individual colleges are urged to do more to encourage students to attend full time, especially younger students who are not responsible for supporting family members. Students should be encouraged to complete 30 units per year.

However, the community colleges face substantial challenges in realizing the ambitious and worthy goals outlined in the report. The community colleges comprise a decentralized system in which campuses are organized into 72 districts overseen by locally elected boards of trustees. As a result, edicts from Sacramento will not have their desired outcomes unless there is buy-in at a local level.

Read the complete article on the EdSource website.

Cal State trustees grapple with boosting graduation rates and enrollment

On July 18, 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Cal State trustees grapple with boosting graduation rates and enrollment.” Here’s an excerpt:

About 31,000 fully qualified students were turned away from California State University for the fall term because their desired school was at capacity, administrators told trustees during a meeting Tuesday as they discussed budget challenges and new directives to increase enrollment at the largest public university system in the nation.

In regards to additional state funding, the Times reported:

The funding boost for this fiscal year, which began July 1, amounted to about half of the additional money trustees had estimated was necessary to meet their budget needs. Revenue from the tuition increase will help cover some of the remaining budget gap.

Read the complete article on the Los Angeles Times website.

Meeting California’s Need for College Graduates: A Regional Perspective

A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) addresses “Meeting California’s Need for College Graduates: A Regional Perspective.” Here’s an excerpt from the June 2017 report:

California needs 1.1 million more workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2030 to keep up with economic demand. More college graduates would mean higher incomes, greater economic mobility, more tax revenue, and less demand for social services. In addressing this projected shortfall, three regions will play an especially critical role: Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire, and the San Joaquin Valley. Indeed, improving college outcomes in these regions could help close more than half of the statewide skills gap.

The report offers recommendations:

Despite the challenges ahead, considerable progress has already occurred. Student preparation for college is up in all three regions, as are college enrollment and graduation rates. Our research highlights several opportunities to build on this progress:

  • Increase capacity at four-year universities by continuing to focus on four-year graduation rates and encouraging satellite campuses.
  • Streamline the transfer pathway by aligning student success initiatives among community colleges, public universities, and private nonprofit colleges in the same region.
  • Develop regional promise programs with common standards to reduce inequities and expand reach beyond what local programs can offer.
  • Support regional data-sharing partnerships, such as the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium and Growing Inland Achievement, to promote the coordination and evaluation of regional efforts.

Read the report and summary on the PPIC website.

California lawmakers chip away at state’s college affordability crisis

On July 6, 2017, CALmatters reported, “California lawmakers chip away at state’s college affordability crisis.” CALmatters is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.  Here’s an excerpt of the article:


Yes. The state budget Brown signed last week includes about $50 million in new funding for community college students—money targeted for living expenses. Recipients of Cal Grants, which help pay for tuition and fees, will now qualify for nearly $2,500 in new state grants for living expenses, depending on how many credits they take per year.

The budget also protects the Middle Class Scholarship program, even though critics have raised questions about whether the grants are serving the families it was designed to target.

Cochrane said she’s pleased that Sacramento is finally paying attention to college affordability. Her organization is part of a coalition that proposed several alternatives for the Legislature to consider next year when it revives talks on the Assembly’s “degrees not debt” plan.

“The focus on big proposals is exciting,” Cochrane said. “It signals a willingness and interest in dedicating new resources to higher education affordability. The next question to discuss is how to spend that money.”

Read the complete article on the CALmatters website.