The latest Grapevine survey — an annual evaluation of the extent of each state’s tax support for higher education — revealed that California’s fiscal backing of its universities shrank 13.5 percent over the past year.
This rate represents a $1.5 billion decrease, pushing the state far above the national average of 7.6 percent. This year’s drops were larger than usual, likely due to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was implemented in 2009 to supplement state finances with federal funding for three years.
The study is conducted by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers.
In a statement released Jan. 23, SHEEO President Paul Lingenfelter said states with hefty declines would have to shoulder the burden in the future — and California’s cuts alone constitute 26 percent of the national total.
“Those with the largest percentage declines in state support will experience the greatest upward pressure on tuition rates and on recruiting out-of-state students for revenue stabilization,” Lingenfelter said. “More worrying, however, is the potential loss of access for students with significant financial need as state support for financial aid also declines. Such loss of access and change in resident-nonresident mix will have implications for the availability of an adequately educated workforce in those states.”
Unless there are severe alterations in the state’s budget, the UC Board of Regents will have to make a decision on tuition at its March meeting. While administrative officials intend to hold a rally at the state Capitol to advocate for increased education funding, this will not take place until the board’s May 17 meeting.
UC Office of the President Spokesperson Dianne Klein said regents chose to relocate the May gathering to Sacramento due to the chance that more comprehensive information will be available by that point.
“We hope that we’ll have a better idea about the budget by then, but again, who knows,” Klein said. “Based on history, oftentimes it’s been to the eleventh hour.”
According to Klein, the idea for a rally has been circulating for over a year, but university officials have yet to solidify what the event will entail.
“Plans are still being made, because it is a way off,” Klein said. “What we’re doing now is just exploring with others, our advocates with students, about what this is going to look like.”
UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that the number of students taking out at least $10,000 in student loans more than doubled over the past year. Meanwhile, the amount of scholarships and grants decreased, and an increasing number of students were forced to forego their first-choice universities for fiscal reasons.
Speaking on his blueprint for higher education at the University of Michigan last Friday, President Obama said he intends to implement a “Race to the Top” program in which states would be rewarded for keeping the cost of college education down.
“From now on, I’m telling Congress we should steer federal campus-based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value [and] serve their students well,” Obama said. “We are putting colleges on notice — you can’t assume that you’ll just jack up tuition every single year.”
Obama also announced plans to increase federal student aid, but said this funding source will have its limits.
“Look, we can’t just keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition,” Obama said. “If tuition is going up faster than inflation, faster than even health care is going up, no matter how much we subsidize it, sooner or later, we’re going to run out of money. And that means that others have to do their part. Colleges and universities need to do their part to keep costs down as well.”