Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to veto any state budget unless it includes the return of $848 million to public higher education.

Schwarzenegger announced yesterday that he will only support a budget featuring the increases in funding he proposed earlier this year, which includes $305 million to the UC and the additional allocation of $51.3 million to maintain access for 5,121 students. The governor presented his plan at a meeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of the California Master Plan for Higher Education.

This year, in the wake of massive cuts, UC students were hit with a 32 percent fee increase and universities system wide imposed furloughs and curtailed a variety of programs and courses.

In Schwarzenegger’s January spending proposal, the governor indicated that the state would be returning $848 million to the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges. The budget included $305 million for the CSU and $60.6 million to finance 8,000 students, while community colleges would be granted $126 million for 60,000 students.

The governor also said he guarantees that the budget will include continued founding for the Cal Grant financial aid program.

“I will not sign a budget without those increases in there,” he said.

UC President Mark G. Yudof said in a press release that the UC, CSU and the community college systems must collaborate to improve the state’s student transfer rate and generate funding to alleviate the projected shortage of 1 million college-educated Californians in the work force by 2025.

“We have to ask this generation of Californians, ‘Are we willing to build the human infrastructure that will make the state successful?’” Yudof said. “I think the answer is ‘yes.’”

Additionally, Schwarzenegger praised the three public education systems, noting that the UC contributes to the establishment of new businesses and that CSUs and community colleges supply a majority of the state’s firefighter and nurse workforce.

“All of the people in this room need to make sure our colleges have the resources to serve the people of California,” Schwarzenegger said.

Over 250 alumni and stakeholders participated in yesterday’s advocacy efforts to rally legislators for increased state investment in public education.

According to California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, if an additional 2 percent of California’s population earned associate degrees and 1 percent obtained bachelor’s degrees, California’s economy would grow by $20 billion, the state would earn $1.2 billion a year in local taxes and create 174,000 new jobs opportunities.

“We’re not talking about something that is a cost,” Scott said in a press release. “We’re talking about something that is an investment.”