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.

UC helps drive California biotech; don’t disinvest

On June 5, 2018, The East Bay Times published an op-ed from a group of Bay Area biotech company executives titled, “UC helps drive California biotech; don’t disinvest.” Here’s an excerpt:

University of California research innovations have helped Bay Area biotech companies usher in breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy, disease prevention, vaccines, precision medicine and prosthetics while generating high-paying jobs and tax revenues for the Golden State.

And so it’s little wonder that Bay Area biotech leaders – especially those of us who graduated from UC campuses – are closely watching how Gov. Jerry Brown funds California’s top-ranking research university system in the 2018-19 state budget. A lot is at stake.

While we applaud the allocation for UC’s deferred maintenance, the governor’s proposed 3 percent increase falls significantly below what is needed to keep the University of California competitive and, in turn, California’s biotech industry on the cutting edge.

Across UC campuses from Berkeley to San Francisco and from San Diego to Davis, five new inventions, on average, are developed each day. Moreover, research by UC graduate students produce a new startup every two weeks.  At UC Berkeley, our alma mater, hundreds of life sciences majors take up research positions in our firms on the outskirts of the campus. …

For the sake of future generations of UC students and the health of California’s economy, it is critical that Gov. Brown and state legislators support full funding for UC’s 2018 budget request. A 4 percent increase versus the governor’s proposed 3 percent would signal a step towards returning to the level of state support needed to sustain UC’s excellence and affordability.

As CEOs of companies on the frontline of science and medicine, we need the state to continue partnering with the University of California to produce the expert labor force that drives the biotechnology industry in our state.
We urge those who care about the state’s economic growth, and health and social mobility, to call on the governor and legislators to safeguard the University of California’s critical role in the state’s life sciences business ecosystem.

Wendye Robbins, president & CEO of Blade Therapeutics in South San Francisco, co-wrote the op-ed with fellow UC Berkeley graduates Stephen Cary, president and CEO of Omniox; Nathaniel David, co-founder and president of Unity Biotechnology; Stephen Isaacs, chairman, president and CEO of Aduro Biotech; David Kirn, CEO, co-founder and chairman of 4D Molecular Therapeutics; Gail Maderis, president and CEO of Antiva Biosciences; Adam Mendelsohn, president of Nano Precision Medical; and Terry Rosen, CEO of Arcus Biosciences.  Read the complete op-ed on The East Bay Times’ website.

You don’t need to be the head of Google to know what needs to be done about the UC

On May 31, 2018, The Sacramento Bee published an op-ed from Eric Schmidt, former executive chair of Google and a member of the UC Berkeley Board of Visitors, titled, “You don’t need to be the head of Google to know what needs to be done about the UC.” Here’s an excerpt:

While our socioeconomic well-being depends on a vibrant private sector, make no mistake, the strength of that sector is supported in profound ways by all that public higher education has to offer. And I feel that California owes it to ourselves to make sure that its institutions of higher learning remain places of immense promise and unlimited potential for students who will shape our state, and our economy, well into the future.

Today, the UC system educates about 90,000 more students than it did in the year 2000 with the same level of state funding. On a per-student basis, state support for the UC has plummeted from $19,100 per student to $7,500 in the 2016-17 academic year, even as the university has been compelled to admit a growing number of students. You don’t need to be a business executive to realize that is unsustainable.

California’s higher education system has long been one of the strongest and most accessible in the U.S. The UC is also known as a world-class incubator of discovery and innovation, generating more patents than any other university in the nation. It’s in UC’s DNA, from the very beginning. …

The investment of public funds in public universities has paid Californians back many times over. In fact, study after study shows that when it comes to public spending there is no better investment than higher education, with every dollar spent generating as much as seven dollars for the state’s coffers.

There’s a moral bottom line, as well. Budgets are moral documents – they reveal our true values. Putting more resources into higher education, sustaining what the state’s founders started, is not only an economic no-brainer – it’s the right thing to do.

Read the complete op-ed on The Sacramento Bee’s  website.

New Analyses Show Decades of Decline in Direct State Support for CSU and UC

This May, The California Budget & Policy Center published a report: “New Analyses Show Decades of Decline in Direct State Support for CSU and UC.”  Here’s an excerpt:

California’s public university systems — the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) — have seen substantial increases in enrollment since the early 1980s and currently educate a total of nearly 700,000 students. However, a pair of Data Hits from Budget Center Policy Analyst Amy Rose shows that even as their student populations have grown, direct state investment in CSU and UC has declined significantly. State funding for higher education is expected to be among the key issues for deliberation as legislators and Governor Brown work to finalize a new state budget in the coming weeks.

Read the analysis on The California Budget & Policy Center website for:




Both the State Assembly and Senate Budget Committees have voted to provide significant new funding for the University of California and California State University in the 2018-19 Budget.   The committee actions provided more than $100 million for UC above the Governor’s budget proposal and more than $200 million in additional funding for CSU.  Strong funding for California’s community colleges is also part of the emerging budget package.

“The Legislature is moving to recommit California to public higher education,” commented Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, Co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education.  “This is a major step toward strengthening both UC and CSU and opening the doors wider to deserving young Californians.  The Administration’s budget proposal for higher education was clearly inadequate and it is gratifying that legislators on both sides of the aisle have recognized the need.”

Students, faculty, parents, alumni and community leaders have rallied to the cause of full funding for UC and CSU.  In the Legislature, Assembly Budget Chair Jose Medina and Senators Steve Glazer and Ben Allen have led the charge.

The next step in the Budget process will be adoption of Budget versions by both the Assembly and Senate and then conference committee negotiations for a final package to be approved by both houses of the Legislature.  The final Budget negotiations will involve the Governor, as well as the Legislative leadership.  The deadline for passage of the 2018-19 Budget is June 15.

New Op-Ed: Next Governor Must Step Up on Higher Education

On May 21, 2018, Fox & Hounds published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “Next Governor Must Step Up on Higher Education.” Here’s an excerpt:

State support for public higher education has had its ups and downs in the almost three decades since Governor Deukmejian left office.  Per pupil State funding is about half what it was during the Deukmejian years.  UC and CSU have taken big hits as the State experienced fiscal crises as the economy has had its ups and downs.  UC and CSU funding levels were recovering under Governor Gray Davis, until the Great Recession when the bottom fell out. A considerable portion of the revenue burden for UC and CSU has been shifted to students and their families in the form of increased tuition and fees.

While Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature have gradually increased higher education funding in recent years, this has never been this Governor’s top priority.  His latest May Revise Budget proposal falls some $200 million short of the modest requests made by UC and CSU.  Fortunately, there seems to be momentum building in the Legislature for “full funding” in the 2018-19 State Budget.

Whatever happens this year, there is need for a comprehensive approach to assure adequate, stable funding for all three pillars of California’s higher education system.  Hand to mouth funding cripples our campuses and undermines the need to provide access for tens of thousands of Californians and to produce the educated work force that drives the state’s economy.  Significant increases in tuition and fees won’t provide the answer.  The State needs to step up its commitment.

So far, in this year’s gubernatorial campaign, we have heard talk about free tuition, but no concrete plans to provide the funding needed to enable our campuses to grow and maintain top academic standards, while serving the growing pool of qualified high school graduates.  Higher education needs to be a priority in this campaign and going forward.  Californians are counting on our next Governor to provide new vision and leadership on higher education.

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

Rally at the State Capitol calls on Governor Brown to fully fund public higher ed

On May 16, 2018, Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) hosted a rally at the State Capitol to call on Governor Brown to fully fund the University of California and California State University systems. Watch as Assemblymember Medina, UC and CSU students, the California Labor Federation and the California Faculty Association fight for California’s universities.


California Stands to Lose Billions in Future Economic Returns by Continuing to Underfund CSU and UC, Study Finds

On May 9, 2018, The California Budget & Policy Center published a report, “California Stands to Lose Billions in Future Economic Returns by Continuing to Underfund CSU and UC.”  Here’s an excerpt:

As we highlighted in a recent analysis, per student spending at the CSU and UC are well below pre-recession levels and are significantly below the funding request from each institution. Governor Brown’s 2018-19 budget proposal continues this trend, allocating a mere 3% General Fund base increase for both institutions. While state leaders deliberate over these marginal increases and whether the universities have been spending wisely the pennies they have been given, the future of California’s students and of our state’s economy hangs in uncertainty.

One of the greatest consequences of underfunding our public institutions of higher education is that thousands of students who are qualified for admittance to the CSU and UC do not attend because of capacity limitations. And while most of these students enroll elsewhere, thousands skip college completely. This state disinvestment in higher education landslides into an underdeveloped workforce that undercuts California’s economic competitiveness, weakens tax revenues, and diminishes the educational, career, and life outcomes for students.

Read the full article on The California Budget & Policy Center’s website.

University of California Stands Out Among Top Schools When It Comes to Serving Poor Students

On May 1, 2018, The Atlantic published an article, “The University of California Stands Out Among Top Schools When It Comes to Serving Poor Students.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Schools in the University of California system are doing significantly better than other four-year colleges and universities in the country when it comes to enrolling low-income students and seeing them across the finish line. Of the public and private nonprofit schools with a higher-than-average Pell-awardee enrollment rate (the schools this study examined), the UCs occupy five of the top 10 slots in terms of graduating students. Among only public institutions, they are the top seven.

“Every single time we do these outcome measures, the UC system stands out,” Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, who leads the social policy and politics program at Third Way, told me. A 2016 report from Third Way on outcomes for students at public colleges similarly found that colleges in the UC system fared better than their peers.

Why is that? The state money available for higher education makes a big difference—and the UCs have remained among the better-funded colleges in the country, as institutions in other states have seen sharp cuts. They devote a good portion of that funding to getting low-income students onto campus in the first place. In recent years, colleges have placed increased emphasis on outreach to low-income communities to diversify the socioeconomic makeup of their student body, including sending recruiters to schools they haven’t traditionally frequented and helping with college counseling.

Read the full article on The Atlantic’s website.

Sign our petition! A letter from Congressman Mel Levine

Friends: This year, thousands of California students have been advocating to stop UC and CSU tuition hikes and restore funding for public, higher education.

Students have been doing their part. Now it’s time for UC and CSU alumni to step up too.

That’s why I am excited to announce Alumni Rise, a new joint campaign from Rise and the California Coalition for Public Higher Education that I co-chair.

Students and alumni are standing together and we want you to join us by signing our petition here. 

This fight is important to me personally because when I was a student, UC had no tuition and I paid $61.50 per semester to attend Cal. The opportunity to receive a world class, public higher education enabled me to pursue careers as a lawyer and contribute to my state and country first as an Assemblyman in the California legislature and later in Congress in Washington, D.C.

But in the decades since, state lawmakers have cut funding for California’s public colleges and universities, and made that same world class education inaccessible to far too many students.

As a UC alum and former state legislator, I am distraught every time I hear stories of students being turned away from our public colleges and universities. I am heart broken when I hear from the thousands of students who are facing hunger and homelessness while working hard to earn a college degree.

That’s why I am asking you today to join our movement to restore funding for public colleges and universities. 

Let’s build California into a state where all students can afford to pursue their dreams in college the way that we did. 

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Congressman Mel Levine

P.S. You can help us build this movement by sharing our petition with friends who are current students or alumni of the CSU or UC:


New op-ed from our co-chairs: California Leads in Promoting Higher Education Equality

On April 19, 2018, Fox & Hounds published an op-ed from Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, titled, “California Leads in Promoting Higher Education Equality.”  Here’s an excerpt:

In his column in The New York Times, former New York City Schools Chancellor Harold Levy wrote “there is no easy fix.  Creating economically diverse campuses is complicated and costly.  Higher education did not cause and will not cure economic inequality.  But as colleges struggle to come up with the right formula, the odds against children who come from families earning the median income or less actually graduating from college seem to grow more formidable.”

California’s higher education system is working to beat those odds with significant success in providing opportunity for young men and women at every rung of the economic spectrum and in achieving unprecedented diversity.  At a time when State revenues are quite healthy, the Governor and the Legislature can take another step to improve those odds by fully funding UC, CSU and the community colleges in the 2018-19 State Budget now wending its way through the legislative process.

The op-ed points out the three pillars of California’s public higher education system—UC, California State University, and the community colleges—are making progress that should be a model for the nation:

Results speak for themselves:

  • More than half of undergraduates at CSU campuses receive federal Pell Grants targeted to students from lower income families.


  • At UC, 38% of undergraduates qualify for Pell Grants and 42% are first in their family to attend college.  UC Berkeley and UCLA each serve more Pell Grant students than the entire Ivy League combined.


  • California’s community colleges serve more than two million students

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