Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to restore $848 million in funding to the UC, CSU and California Community college systems Tuesday during a meeting with higher education leaders.
The governor included the funding increase as part of his January budget proposal and vowed to protect that number during the meeting.
“If anyone tries to tinker around with that particular area of my budget, I will not sign the budget,” he said. “We need those increases, we need to provide the students with the opportunities.”
California is projected to face a shortage of approximately 1 million college-educated workers by 2025 unless steps are taken to address the situation, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
The state cut higher education funding by $1.7 billion this past year. The three higher education systems have been lobbying the state legislature to restore and increase their funding for the 2010-11 budget. Higher education leaders met Schwarzenegger’s Tuesday promise with enthusiasm.
“We love it,” said Steve Montiel, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President. “We feel he’s showing great leadership. It would be a big step forward.”
UC President Mark Yudof called the governor’s promise “visionary.”
The governor’s January proposal includes a restoration of $305 million to the UC system and $305 million to the CSU system. The UC, CSU and California Community Colleges will also receive $51.3 million, $60.6 million and $126 million, respectively, to preserve access to students.
The proposal, which does not account for enrollment growth, still falls short of what educators hoped for, however.
“It’s less than what we wanted,” Montiel said. “But we knew it was going to be a tough budget year.”
UC has advocated for a $913 million increase to its budget specifically. An April report from the PPIC states that California should increase higher education funding by $1.6 billion annually in order to meet projected needs for 2025.
Schwarzenegger’s promise has been greeted cautiously by Democrats.
“Of course we support increased funding for higher education, but governors usually wait until after the May revision to issue ultimatums,” said Alicia Trost, a spokesperson for Senator Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg.
The state is currently projected to face a budget deficit of between $7 and 8 billion for 2010-11.
The governor will present a revised spending plan on May 14, after which the Legislature must submit a budget for Schwarzenegger to sign.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.