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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Survey finds Californians are worried about public higher education

On Nov. 16, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released results from a survey done to determine Californians’ perceptions of budget cuts on public higher education.

The survey found that 62 percent believe the public higher education system is headed in the wrong direction. Sixty-one percent said overall affordability of education for students is a big problem and 69 percent said the overall state budget situation is also a problem.

“Since the onset of the economic downturn, all three branches [University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges] have undergone significant reductions in state funding,” said Sonja Petek, a project manager of the survey, in a video that this is their fifth annual survey on the topic.

“Now one of the key findings that emerged from our survey is that there are serious and growing concerns about state funding and student affordability and the potential effects on educational quality.”

Petek said together California public colleges serve over 3.5 million students and makes up the state’s third largest area of spending after K-12 education and health and human services.

“Findings are based on a telephone survey of 2,503 California adults residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from Oct. 25 to Nov. 8,” a PPIC press release said. “Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), Vietnamese and Korean.”

According to Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of PPIC, the survey was a random-digit-dial sample that was funded with support from The James Irvine Foundation.

“[The survey’s] goal is to inform state policymakers, encourage discussion and raise public awareness about Californians’ opinions on issues involving the state’s public colleges and universities,” Baldassare said in an e-mail.

The survey also stated that 74 percent of Californians think there is not enough state funding for higher education. Californians are also more critical of how Gov. Jerry Brown is dealing with higher education than of his overall job performance, with 53 percent of likely voters disapproving of his handling of public higher education.

“Californians place an increasingly high priority on state spending for public colleges and universities,” the PPIC said. “Fifty-nine percent of Californians favor more state spending on public colleges and universities even if this means less money for other state programs.”

But even with the serious fiscal dilemma California’s public higher education is in, 52 percent of California residents would prefer not to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding. Sixty-nine percent of adults and 65 percent of likely voters are opposed to increasing student fees to maintain funding and 52 percent of residents approve of admitting out-of-state students to maintain funding.

Baldassare said since this was the fifth annual survey in the series, some of the questions were repeated from earlier years to compare trends over time.

“We reviewed the recent national surveys on this topic and some were included to compare California with the nation,” he said. “We spoke with policy experts and reviewed the budget and other news.”

Seventy percent of Californians disapprove with the way the legislature is performing and 71 percent disapprove of the way the legislature is handling public higher education.

“It is important to know that nearly two in three Californians say the state’s public higher education system is headed in the wrong direction and that this negative view is reflected in the low grades the residents give the governor and legislature for their handling of the state’s public colleges and university system,” Baldassare said.

CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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