Thursday, January 08, 2009

“California at the Edge of a Cliff”: STATE FALLS IN EDUCATION RANKS

By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | Los Angeles Newspaper Group

January 8 - Once regarded as a national leader in higher education, California is quickly falling in the ranks as fewer young people graduate from high school and enroll in college, according to a report released Wednesday by the California Faculty Association.

In its investment in public higher education and college degree attainment, the state ranks has plunged.

California ranked 49th in the country in terms for its number of adults with at least a high school diploma, 46th for the number of 19-year-olds enrolled in college and 31st for college enrollment among students in low-income families.

And over the last three decades the state's investment in public higher education has dropped 40 percent - dropping from 11th in the nation to 22nd despite having the country's largest public higher education system.

"It's a collapse, folks," said Tom Mortensen, author of the report "California at the Edge of a Cliff: The Failure to Invest in Public Higher Education is Crushing the Economy and Crippling our Kids' Futures."

"This is a staggering commentary on this state's commitment to higher education."

Lillian Taiz, president of California State Faculty Association who commissioned the report, said the statistics should be a message to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"For the past several years we have been trying to draw attention to the fact that these cuts have real serious consequences," Taiz said.

"It is utterly hypocritical for the governor to call for job creation out of one side of his mouth while he cuts higher education funding from the other side."

The 2008-09 state budget cut funding for the CSU system twice - a midyear cut of $66.3 million and a $31.3 million one-time cut - and cut the UC system's funding by $48 million. The CSU system also cut enrollment for the 2009-10 year and the UC system will be discussing cutting enrollment at a meeting later this month.

"The governor has always been a large proponent of higher education, but unfortunately in this national economic downturn the state faces a $41.6 billion budget gap, and like families and companies across the state we must tighten our belts," said Camille Anderson, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Anderson also said that the governor has proposed a $644 million increase to higher education funding over last year.

  • California at the Edge of a Cliff report
  • from the report:


    Get Real: There is a simply staggering and growing gulf between demographic reality and higher education policy in California.

    • On the demographic side the share of California’s K-12 students approved for subsidized school lunches hasincreased from 35.2% in 1989 to 51.5% by 2007, and this share will increase much further and probably rapidlyand indefinitely in future years.
    • These students will have zero resources to pay for higher education when they reach college age. But they also represent a growing share of California’s future workforce that must be higher educated for the most valuable work to be done in the Human Capital Economy.
    • On the policy side California has reduced its higher education investment effort by 40 percent since FY1980. This means that public colleges and universities have raised tuitions to offset losses in state support. The state has been shifting the costs of operating its universities from state taxpayers to students and their families since 1980.
    • These students from low family income backgrounds face huge financial barriers to California’s universities and thestate’s financial aid efforts fall very far short of meeting student needs.

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