According a survey released this month by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) titled “Californians & higher education,” Californians have a high opinion of the state’s higher education but are concerned about the impact of the budget deficit.
The survey said that all three branches of California’s higher education system enjoy high approval rates. Fifty-one percent of respondents rated community colleges “good” and 15 percent said “excellent.” California State University received 52 percent “good” and 10 percent “excellent.” For the University of California, 50 percent said “good” and 15 percent excellent.
A large majority of those surveyed were concerned about the effect California’s $10 billion budget deficit will have on higher education. According to the survey, 83 percent of residents are very (48 percent) or somewhat (35 percent) concerned that the deficit will cause significant spending cuts in higher education.
“We are pleased from the survey that Californians have such a high opinion of higher education,” said Ricardo Valazquez, a UC spokesperson. “We do agree that costs are too high. We’re hoping that the state does invest in higher education to the greatest possible extent.”
Jennifer Paluch, the survey project manager, also said the support for higher education in the state is encouraging.
“We don’t see the overwhelming support for any other bureaucracy,” said Paluc. “It’s sort of striking to see at a time when Californians are pretty down on other government agencies.”
The governor and the state legislature were ranked among those other agencies. Only 12 percent of Californians expressed a great deal of confidence in the state government’s ability to plan for the future of the state’s higher education system, according to the survey.
PPIC conducted a similar study in 2007 using many of the same questions. While the answers largely remained the same, minor differences reflect a growing concern over funding.
Thirty-five percent of those surveyed in both 2007 and 2008 named student cost and affordability as the most important issue in higher education. In contrast, 14 percent said “not enough government funding” in 2007 while 19 percent of respondents said the same in 2008.
UC Davis students shared similar opinions expressed in the survey. Elise de Gandiaga, a junior animal science major, recently transferred to UC Davis from a private East Coast school. She said that her experience with California’s higher education has been excellent in comparison, and that budget is always a problem.
“No one’s up for raising taxes, and I don’t agree with raising tuition every year,” de Gandiaga said. “I would gladly pay what I’m paying now for the quality education I’m getting.”
Paluch said that the survey hopes to show the opinions of all Californians, voters and non-voters alike. She said that voters can have their voices heard at the ballot box, but the survey hopes to get a better overall view, especially among parents of children under 18.
“The idea is for us and our motivation is to give a voice to all Californians,” Paluch said. “Our job is to provide timely and non-partisan information to legislators.”
The study is part of a larger project to look at education in the state of California and receives funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. To see the entire survey, visit ppic.org.
ELYSSA THOME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.