Feb. 20 hearing—Asm. Budget Sub2 on Education Finance
Comments from CFA leaders

The following are comments made by CFA President Jennifer Eagan to the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance.

Good Afternoon Chair McCarty and members of Budget Sub 2 Committee.

My name is Jennifer Eagan and I’m President of the CA Faculty Association, representing 28,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches who teach and mentor students in the California State University system.

This committee recently co-hosted a hearing on “the degree gap” during which the Public Policy Institute of California stated that California is on pace to be over 1 million college graduates short to meet the demands of California’s economy by 2030.

The PPIC has also found, not surprisingly, that on an individual basis, educated workers earn significantly more during their lifetime and are less severely affected by economic downturns.

In order to achieve that goal of more degrees, we have to focus on equity, access, and economics.

First equity:

CFA’s research report, “Equity Interrupted,” shows that the California State University system educates a far more diverse student body today than it did 30 years ago and that as the number of students of color has increased, public funding for the CSU has decreased – 94% of the student body in the CSU is from California, and nearly three-quarters identify as students of color. Funding the CSU is matter of not only a matter of creating class mobility, but it fosters racial justice as well. On the other side of that coin, failing to sufficiently fund the CSU is to actively worsen already existing racial disparity.

Second access:

We know that the CSU turned away 31,000 qualified students this past year due to funding, and 20,000 to 30,000 each year for the last six years. We believe, reasonably so, that this trend will only get worse without a significant budget augmentation. These are life chances missed for real young people who were promised a seat at a four-year university.

This is also a crisis for California’s long-term economic and social wellbeing.

Third, economics:

As you are aware, the Governor proposed underfunding the CSU with 92 million; while the CSU requested $263 million and CFA is recommending $422.6 million. In short, people who know our students and what they need to succeed think that Governor’s proposed budget for the CSU is woefully inadequate.  CFA’s requested funding level would increase student admissions by more than 18,000 full time equivalent students. Why the dramatic difference in perspective?

If we only focus on year-to year funding for the CSU, as we do, we lose the big picture.  If the CSU today had resources (state funding plus tuition) comparable to what it had in 1985, it would have more than $773 million more dollars in its operating budget to serve students.

As you know, the Governor’s budget is also recommending that the state put away an additional $3.5 billion in the rainy day fund. Well, we believe it raining in the CSU right now. Demanding austerity during times of plenty is not only cruel, but in the case of higher education particularly unwise.

If the state really wants to prepare for the next downturn, it should do so by investing in public higher education. Workers fuel our economy, people with four-year degrees are particularly valuable to our economy, and degrees help lift people out of poverty.  California cannot afford to waste precious human capital, the most important asset that we have, by letting qualified high students languish without a seat at a public university – a seat that they were promised.

Finally, if you agree that budgets are moral documents, as I believe you do, I would hope that you would agree that funding the dreams of thousands of families, 31,000 families just this past year and counting, for their children earn a degree is money worth spending.

Thank you.