Higher-ed budget relief

Gov. Jerry Brown’s draft state budget is good news for colleges

Gov. Jerry Brown’s draft state budget for 2014-15 is good news for Chico State and Butte College, and thus for Chico and Butte County generally.

The budget calls for a 10.8 percent increase in funding for higher education. That translates to an additional $142.2 million, an increase that is designed to avoid further student tuition and fee increases in the University of California and California State University systems.

Brown also proposes to eliminate the California Community Colleges’ outstanding deferral debt, some $592.4 million the colleges borrowed from the state during the recession.

The increased funding is available because California’s economy is improving, and also because in November 2012 voters approved Proposition 30’s temporary tax hikes. Brown has said his goal for the UC and CSU is to give them “steady and predictable” funding through the next three budgeting cycles.

In return, he wants them to meet certain expectations: that student fees and tuition will stabilize; that students will complete their degrees in four years, not six; that the number of students completing programs will increase; and that more community-college students will transfer to four-year institutions.

If the higher-ed budget has a shortcoming, it’s that it doesn’t create more room for students, especially low-income students. Many will be turned away. It’s a problem that can be solved, at least in part, if the colleges and universities work harder to move students through more speedily and foster increased community-college transfers.

In the meantime, students and their families will now have the comfort of knowing they won’t be blindsided by surprise tuition hikes, and college and university staffs—which have been in crisis mode since the recession began—can begin to relax. And local economies like Chico’s that rely heavily on the money their universities and colleges generate can begin to breathe easier as well.