by Max Reyes, SFVYD Editorial Director
As we all know, the California State Legislature has been working on a budget that will close a $19.1 billion budget shortfall. Although much of the proposals being discussed sound discouraging, one of the aspects I feel optimistic about is the funding the State Legislative Budget Conference Committee and the Governor have proposed to allocate to higher education. Both of their proposals are planning to increase the total funding by approximately $1.2 billion.
This is rare good news considering that over the past decade our State has been cutting rather than increasing funds for high education. According to an article in the Orange County Register, student fees at the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) have tripled in the past decade. Just in the past year, UC fees increased by 32 percent and CSU fees by 5 percent. That translates to an increase of $2,514 and $204, respectively. These fee hikes are very difficult for the students, especially for those from middle-income households. They’re not making enough to fully fund education themselves nor do they qualify for financial aid. As a result, many of them end up taking out loans and paying them back for a long time after graduating. That is, if they don’t drop out because of financial issues.
Hopefully the Legislature and the governor follow through with their higher education proposals for the 2010-2011 budget and don’t cut anymore funding in the future. They have already set back enough students from completing a college education - an education that will give individuals the means to get a good paying job, provide for their families and live comfortably.
Also, having a more educated populace benefits our State. According to a study conducted by UC Berkeley researchers, for every new dollar that we invest in education the State gets a net return of three dollars. Additionally, State Senator Alex Padilla noted at a “Campaign for College Opportunity” event that 40 percent of today’s national workforce is eligible for retirement. We need to get more students through college and get them ready to join the workforce.
I know firsthand how important a college education is. Had I not graduated, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am right now. Cutting funds to education has literally destroyed the dreams of numerous students. I’ve spoken with countless others who have to undergo poor living conditions, work full-time, and skip meals just to get through college – some don’t even make it and decide to drop out because the financial burdens are too strenuous.
This is why it is essential for the State to follow through with its proposals to increase funding for higher education not only to give everyone the opportunity to succeed but to help our State’s economy get out of its slump. In fact, I encourage you to contact your local State Legislators telling them that you are counting on them to keep Higher Education a top priority as they work to pass a budget.