CFA COVID-19 Message: CFA’s Response to Governor’s May Revise

Dear Colleagues,  

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom released his latest projections for the 2020-21 state budget.  I wanted to provide you with details on the May Revise and our response.  

Governor Newsom outlined a proposal to close California’s $54.3 billion budget shortfall for 2020-21 that includes a combination of spending cuts, reserves, deferrals, increased corporate taxes, and federal stimulus contributions.  He is proposing a 10 percent across-the-board cut to higher education, which amounts to $398 million less in funding for the CSU.  This cut could be eliminated and backfilled with funding from the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act, a fourth federal stimulus measure that Congress is considering this week.  

As lawmakers move through the budget development process, CFA calls on the Governor, the Legislature, and the CSU administration to recognize their responsibility to our students and our state’s future.  

The Governor and the Legislature have a responsibility to our students and the CSU because both will be central to the economic recovery of California.

While we recognize the severity of the state’s budget crisis, CFA sincerely believes that if California disinvests in public higher education, it will diminish our ability to recover from this COVID-19 crisis.   

This budget deficit is happening because of a pandemic that is already perpetuating inequity in our state. National crises all too often increase the social inequality curve or systemic inequities in society. As our faculty and students know, the CSU is the main engine of mobility for those seeking to enter the middle class. The decisions made now will determine if our budget response will reduce or exacerbate social inequalities within our state.  

CSU faculty teach students from every social and geographic sector of California: first-generation, students of color and Native students, immigrants, undocumented, veterans, LGBTQIA+, poor, working class, housing- and food-insecure, parents, single-parents, those with disabilities, second language learners, and so many others. A lack of state funding in the past has consistently led to increases in tuition which affects access and equity; research shows that increases to tuition lead to real harm to California families including lower rates of diversity on college campuses. The CSU currently is central to the development of workforce diversity in California with over 43 percent of Latinx students enrolled on our campuses; the gates must remain open. Our students, their families, and their communities are often the ones on the front line of this pandemic and they deserve a path forward.  The health and economic livelihoods of those in the CSU community who are Native or of color are the hardest hit by COVID-19; state lawmakers and CSU management must not add to the burden by diminishing access to the CSU.  

The CSU is central to the future economy of California. The positive life outcomes for college graduates are well documented and include higher incomes, better health, and improved social and economic mobility. The Public Policy Institute of California found that Californians with a bachelor’s degree earn $87,000 a year on average, more than double the $41,000 for those with only a high school diploma. One study from UC Berkeley suggests that for every $1 California invests in higher education, it will receive a net return on investment of $4.80 in terms of increased revenues (on taxed earnings of these graduates), and savings in social services and incarceration spending when students graduate. The working-lifetime return to the state per student who completes a BA is estimated to be over $200,000.  Funding the CSU is an investment in California’s future.  

CFA appreciates the Governor’s preservation of Cal Grant eligibility for students needing financial aid.  But an across-the-board cut like the one he proposes is not solving the budget crisis with a focus on equity, as he claimed in his remarks Thursday.  The CSU serves some of the most vulnerable populations across the state.  

The CSU administration also has a responsibility to our students, faculty, and communities to spend funding wisely and in a way that prioritizes instruction and the core academic mission.  

The Governor has indicated now is the time to use the rainy day funds for the state, and the same is true for the CSU.  

We do not want to see a repeat of what happened in the last recession when faculty and students suffered through furloughs, increased class sizes, limited class offerings, and tuition increases, while the CSU actually saved and hoarded funds. The CSU has at least $1.5 billion in reserves. The COVID-19 pandemic is the rainiest day we’ve seen in a long time.  It’s time to use that money – and funding from the CARES Act and other stimulus money – to absorb the proposed cuts and preserve our core mission of academic instruction and related programs.   

CFA will hold CSU management accountable.  The CSU administration will need to be fiscally responsible before any cuts come to our lecturers, tenure-line faculty, librarians, counselors, and coaches.  CFA demands transparency and participation in budget and emergency response planning.  

The CSU’s financial recovery from COVID-19 should not be achieved on the backs of students. A state audit on the CSU’s campus-based fees released this week revealed that these fees (which students must pay in addition to tuition) continue to increase since the Great Recession with little, if any, oversight.  These fees range from $4,201 to $847 based on the campus per year, and most financial aid cannot be used to pay these fees.  CSU administrators must do more to guarantee affordability and access for all students.  

We need to know our administration has its priorities and values in the right place – our students and their education must come first. And we must preserve our labor force within the system – our faculty and staff are the CSU frontline.  We are the CSU’s essential workers.   

CFA will be advocating that the Governor and Legislature reduce the proposed budget cuts to the CSU, and we will keep you updated on any actions you can take to support our funding advocacy efforts, including the HEROES Act.  

In releasing his May Revise, Governor Newsom expressed hope in our ability to navigate these cuts because the state has paid down debt, increased reserves, and grown the General Fund.  For those of us in the CSU community, we must do our best to defend the priorities of access, equity, and quality public higher education for the students of California: they are our future.  

During times of such uncertainty, please take assurance that your union is here, and CFA fights for you and your families.  I hope that you and your loved ones stay healthy.    

In union,

Charles Toombs, Ph.D.
President, California Faculty Association
Department of Africana Studies
San Diego State University