Education

CSU faculty: Underfunding the schools betrays current students

In this 2014 file photo, a student writes in chalk near the front entrance to the CSU Chancellor's office in Long Beach.
In this 2014 file photo, a student writes in chalk near the front entrance to the CSU Chancellor's office in Long Beach.
Stuart Palley/ KPCC

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The California Faculty Association issued a report on Thursday making the case that in a span of 30 years, the state has underfunded public higher education, even as the state’s largest university system enrolled more underrepresented students.

“As the student body of the CSU became darker, funding for the CSU became lighter,” said Cecil Canton, a California Faculty Association vice president.

The association’s 22-page report detailed how per student funding in 1985 was about $5,000 more than it is now.

“While the CSU student body has grown by 64 percent over the past 30 years, the CSU budget has actually decreased by 2.9 percent over the same 30 year span,” said Jennifer Eagan, the association’s president.

Recession-era budget cuts led to enrollment cuts and cuts to support staff, which damaged the quality of education, the faculty maintain.

The report comes days after Governor Jerry Brown unveiled a budget proposal for the next fiscal year that begins the jockeying among lawmakers, public agencies and their supporters for budget increases and culminates with the signing of the budget during the summer.

Brown proposed a $162 million increase to the CSU budget. But Eagan said CSU needs more than double that increase to begin repairing the damage caused by cuts.

The governor’s finance office didn’t dispute the association’s report and stood by the proposed increase.

“We’ve been able to renew that investment and build back what we’ve always wanted to do which is continue to build funding for the CSU and UC,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the finance office.

Palmer said he’s unsure how April tax receipts will affect the budget proposal. In addition, he said, it’s unclear how the new Trump administration will impact some federal sources of state income.

The association believes there’s a larger malaise that needs to be addressed by the general public.

In the decades after World War II, generous public funding of higher education kept costs low and even free for some time and that contributed to California’s prosperity.

“Having benefited from public subsidy, our generation, which is paying lower taxes than our parents did, is saying that we just can’t afford to support this generation’s education,” said University of Arizona professor Gary Rhoade,s in support of the association’s report. Rhoades earned his degree at UCLA in 1975, a time when yearly tuition at UC schools for in-state students was less than $700.