Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 7:14 am | A Few Clouds 53º


Survey: Concerns Rise Over Funding of Public Colleges, Universities

Many Californians favor raising their own taxes than increasing student fees

A strong majority of Californians say state funding for higher education is inadequate, and most would favor more spending on public colleges and universities even if it means less money for other state programs. These are the findings of a statewide survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

A poor economy and persistent state budget deficit have taken a notable toll on Californians’ views about state funding for public higher education in the PPIC survey — taken before the state legislative analyst projected a $25.4 billion budget shortfall over the next 18 months. Today, 74 percent of residents say the state doesn’t provide enough money for colleges and universities, up 17 points from October 2007 (57 percent).

Most Californians (68 percent) believe that spending for public higher education should be given a high or very high priority — a 14-point increase from November 2008 (54 percent) — and 57 percent favor spending more on higher education even at the expense of other programs. Most (62 percent) are very concerned that the state budget situation will cause significant spending cuts in higher education, up 14 points from November 2008 (48 percent).

As Californians overall have grown more concerned about funding for higher education, parents’ concerns about paying for their children’s college education also have increased. Today, 57 percent of parents with children age 18 or younger are very worried about being able to afford college (43 percent in October 2007, 46 percent in November 2008, 50 percent November 2009). Concern is especially high today among Latino parents, with 72 percent very worried about being able to pay for college — up 19 points since 2007.

“Residents see higher education as crucial — to personal success and to California’s future,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “They are clearly worried about the state’s ability to fund public colleges and universities that are high quality and widely accessible.”

Californians Split on Increasing Taxes to Maintain Funding

What steps would residents be willing to take to raise revenue for colleges and universities? They are divided on whether they would pay higher taxes to maintain current funding (49 percent yes, 49 percent no), with a strong partisan divide (64 percent of Democrats yes, 51 percent of independents and 69 percent of Republicans no). However, Californians’ willingness to pay higher taxes has increased over the past year (41 percent yes, 56 percent no in 2009). And they are much more likely to favor raising their own taxes than to raising student fees to maintain current funding (35 percent yes, 62 percent no).

Opposition to raising student fees holds across party lines (63 percent Democrats, 60 percent Republicans, 59 percent independents). (The PPIC survey was taken before the University of California proposed, and California State University approved, fee increases earlier this month.)

A majority of adults (57 percent) support another idea under consideration: admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition. But support drops to 26 percent if doing so would mean that fewer California students would be admitted.

Asked about measures colleges and universities have already taken to deal with decreased state funding, Californians are most likely to be very concerned about increasing tuition and fees for students (65 percent), followed by admitting fewer students (62 percent), offering fewer classes (59 percent), and reducing the pay and hours for college faculty and staff (46 percent).

Although spared from state budget cuts this year, higher education still receives less funding than in earlier years. Most residents (66 percent) believe that educational quality will suffer if state government makes budget cuts to higher education, while 29 percent say educational quality could be maintained. Asked to choose among approaches that would significantly improve the quality of the system, a majority (54 percent) choose a combination of using funds more wisely and increasing funds, while 34 percent say just using funds more wisely would significantly improve quality, and just 11 percent say a funding increase alone would do so.

Higher Education Viewed as High Priority for New Governor

Most adults (75 percent) nationwide say a college education is very important (Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, June 2010), and the PPIC survey shows Californians are even more likely to say so (86 percent). A strong majority (63 percent) see a college education as necessary for a person to be successful in today’s work world, while just 35 percent say that there are many ways to succeed without college.

Nearly all Californians say that given all of the issues facing the new governor in 2011, planning for the future of the state’s higher education system is very important (76 percent) or somewhat important (21 percent). However, confidence in the state government’s ability to plan for the future of California higher education is not high: Most residents (57 percent) have very little or no confidence in the government’s ability to so, while 40 percent have some or a great deal of confidence. This is a reversal from 2007, when 57 percent had some or a great deal of confidence in the state’s ability to plan for the system’s future.

Most Support Universal Access — And Most Say Cost Is a Barrier

A key principle of California’s 1960 master plan for higher education was universal access to college for all qualified state residents, and most Californians today concur with this view. Asked whether they think all Californians who are qualified to attend college should have an opportunity to do so, 85 percent say yes and just 12 percent say admissions should be restricted because of the cost to the state.

But only 26 percent of Californians think that the vast majority of people qualified to go to college are able to do so, and 71 percent say many people don’t have the opportunity. An overwhelming majority (73 percent) think the price of a college education keeps students who are qualified and motivated from attending. Strong majorities across political, regional and demographic groups agree. At the same time, a majority (55 percent) think that almost anyone who needs financial help can get loans or financial aid, while 40 percent disagree. However, 74 percent say students must borrow too much money to pay for a college education.

Given Californians’ concerns about college costs, it’s not surprising that there is strong support for government programs that make college more affordable. Large majorities favor increasing government funding for work-study opportunities (88 percent) and for scholarships and grants (84 percent). To a lesser degree, they also favor having a sliding scale for tuition and fee costs so that students would pay according to income (72 percent).

UC, CSU, Community Colleges Get Good Grades

While Californians are most likely to identify the state budget situation (74 percent) or overall affordability (60 percent) as a big problem in the higher education system, far fewer see quality as a big problem (22 percent). And as they have since October 2007, strong majorities of residents say each branch of the system is doing a good or excellent job. They view each similarly, with 62 percent saying the California State University system is doing at least a good job (9 percent excellent, 53 percent good) and 64 percent saying the same for the University of California (15 percent excellent, 49 percent good) and community college system (13 percent excellent, 51 percent good).

Asked specifically about the role of community colleges, a plurality (41 percent) say the most important goal for this branch of higher education is preparing students to transfer to four-year schools. Fewer say the goal is to provide career technical or vocational education (25 percent) or courses for lifelong learning or personal enrichment (15 percent). Even less frequently mentioned: providing associate’s degrees (8 percent) and providing basic skills or remedial education (5 percent). Nearly all Californians say it is very important (78 percent) or somewhat important (18 percent) that community colleges include classes that prepare students to transfer to four-year colleges and universities, and nearly all say it is very (73 percent) or somewhat important (23 percent) that community colleges include career technical or vocational education.

More Key Findings

Higher Education Seen as Important to Future

Nearly all Californians say that the state’s higher education system is very important (77 percent) or somewhat important (20 percent) to the quality of life and economic vitality of the state over the next 20 years. And a majority (56 percent) say that if current trends continue, California will not have enough college-educated workers for the jobs and skills likely to be in demand in 20 years. The share of residents who hold this view is up 7 points since last November (49 percent).

State Leaders: Low Approval Ratings Overall, Low for Handling Higher Education

Just one in four Californians (25 percent) approve of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job performance, similar to the low ratings he has received all year. Just 19 percent approve of his handling of public colleges and universities. The Legislature ranks lower, with 14 percent approval ratings overall — matching the record low — and 15 percent approving of lawmakers’ handling of higher education.

Economic, Racially Diverse Student Body Valued

Three in four Californians (77 percent) say it is very or somewhat important for public colleges and universities to have a racially diverse student body. More than eight in 10 (83 percent) hold this view about economic diversity.

Nearly All Parents Aspire to College for Their Children

Among parents of children 18 or younger, nearly all hope their youngest child gets a college degree (42 percent) or post-graduate degree (46 percent). Among racial/ethnic groups, strong majorities of both white and Latino parents hope their child gets a college degree (37 percent whites, 52 percent Latinos) or post-graduate degree (54 percent whites, 30 percent Latinos).

Click here to view the survey.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >