Access To & Funding of CA Higher Education: Join the New Study

CarolFThomasInterested in the problems in public higher education here in California? Want to help find some solutions?  We’ll work on the study through the fall and winter. Committee members will help shape state League higher education policy. I’m excited about this opportunity to learn together and contribute to our League. I’m looking for colleagues to work with me on the study committee.

Our league is coordinating efforts with the Oakland, Piedmont and Alameda leagues, but all local Alameda County leagues can send a representative.  Our meetings are held at the offices of the LWVBAE, 2530 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley. Meetings will be at 9:30 am, November 21, skip December, continue in January.

For information about the issues, consensus questions and study guide, please see the links posted on http:// lwvc.org/study/education-0

SAVE November 19, 6-9 pm: Hans Johnson, Senior Fellow of the Public Policy Institute of CA and Chris Hoene, Executive Director, of the California Budget Policy Center will introduce some of the issues of the study November 19th from 6-8pm. Both their institutes made very important reports on loss of access to higher education in 2015.  Check the League website Calendar for location and details.

The Committee will distill the facts and issues and present them to our members at meetings next March. We’ll help members reach agreement [consensus in League lingo] on policies for a new state League higher education position. The state league will then be able to advocate for or against key legislation on public higher education.

I’m chairing our League’s study group. I’m looking for  folks to join me in exploring these issues in higher education: access, affordability, preparedness, equity, and funding.

Interested? Please send me an email at carolthomas@lwvbae.org

Carol Thomas, Chair, Higher Education Study for LWVBAE

And read more below.

Why does our higher education need to improve?

According to California Competes, a council of independent business and
civic leaders, an effective higher education system is the cornerstone of the
American value to guarantee access to economic opportunity. Supporting
higher education also provides the seeds of innovation so that our most
creative and productive industries can thrive. A critical mass of well-
educated people is a magnet for investment. Investments in education
make it possible for our citizens to engage in a world economy requiring
increasingly higher levels of knowledge and skill for the most cutting-edge
industries and jobs.

The California Master Plan for Higher Education, a framework document
conceived in 1959, coordinates the responsibilities of the UC, CSU, and
community college systems. However, since 1959, the plan has seen a
decline in state funding, changing demographics and a complete
technology revolution.

Many claim that the current policy is out-of-date and in dire need of reform.
The Little Hoover Commission, an independent state
oversight agency, issued a report in October 2014, that called for a new
master plan to address:

“the state’s need to substantially increase the
number of graduates and the reality that state resources are limited.”

Some of the reasons they cited:
• The state is projected to have a shortfall by 2025 of one million students
with 4-year degrees and more than 2.3 million with degrees, certificates,
and diplomas needed to meet the stat’s workforce requirements.
• Insufficient classes contribute to low completion rates
• It is difficult to transfer course and unit credit within and among
segments, forcing students to repeat work
• The state is moving substantially slower than it should to integrate online
education
• The state has to figure out how to achieve better outcomes for more
students, without adding more money.

Recent data shows that California has slipped as an economic leader.
We rank 23rd in terms of the proportion of adults 25-64 with an associate’s
degree or above. This means the state is facing a skills gap, with the
economy increasingly demanding highly educated workers. In addition,
cuts in state General Fund support have led to increased tuition and fees in
recent decades, shifting more of the costs of higher education to students
and families. One consequence of this cost-shift, is that more students are
graduating with increasing amounts of student loan debt, while others are
forgoing higher education.

The League of Women Voters of California recognizes that public higher
education in California is at a crossroads. Unfortunately, the League does
not have a position on public higher education in California that includes
the CSU and UC systems, and therefore cannot comment or advocate for
or against any legislation.

In 2013, the League approved a statewide study to focus on higher education issues,
including funding, affordability, preparedness, equity, and opportunities and barriers for success. Local leagues are encouraged to get involved in the study and reach consensus
on these issues. If you are interested in helping with our local study group,

please contact Carol Thomas via email at: carolthomas@lwvbae.org

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