Governor’s proposed state budget increases funding for UC system, mental health initiatives

Governor’s proposed state budget increases funding for UC system, mental health initiatives

Photo Credits: JD LASICA [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR

State budget has $36.4 billion allocated for UC, CSU, Community College systems

Newly-elected California Governor Gavin Newsom released his state budget proposal on Jan. 10, 2019. Within the $209 billion budget, $36.4 billion was allocated to higher education — with funds going to the UCs, CSUs and California Community Colleges. This marks a $1.4 billion increase from Jerry Brown’s previous budget, reflecting a 4.1 percent rise from the 2018-19 year.

Newsom hopes that this hike in funding across all of California’s higher education systems will allow for an overall increase in access to schooling, an improvement of graduation rates and a tuition freeze.

In the budget summary, Newsom clarified that $240 million would be set aside as an ongoing General Fund augmentation specifically for the UC to “fund operating costs, [make] efforts to increase student success, improve student mental health services, and better address student hunger and homelessness.”

An additional $138 million was allocated to serve as a one-time General Fund for the UC to assist with its “deferred maintenance backlog.”

Newsom is investing in the UC system with the expectation that tuition will be frozen at current levels and that graduation times will improve.

He also recognized a need for additional support for student-parents, creating supplemental awards for students in any higher-education institution in California who have dependent children, in an attempt to improve the affordability of college.

Lande Ajose, the chair of the California Student Aid Commision, praised Newsom in a press release for the education reform.

“The struggle to afford child care keeps many low-income Californians from attending and completing a higher education,” Ajose said. “By investing in additional grant aid for students with dependant children, Governor Newsom has proposed a path out of poverty.”

Within the outlined 2019 – 2020 budget, Newsom also designated $5.3 million for an ongoing General Fund specifically for mental health services within the UC system.

The supplementary funding is slated to go toward meeting recommended staffing ratios as well as improving services available to students. This show of support contrasts with former Governor Jerry Brown’s actions surrounding mental health initiatives. Brown vetoed a bill for mental health requirements last year over concerns related to budgeting allocations.

Last legislative session, State Senator Dr. Richard Pan proposed the bill (Senate Bill 968) which would have required all CSU and UC schools “to have one full-time equivalent mental health counselor per 1,500 students.” Pan spoke to The California Aggie in October about the bill after it was rejected.
“Lack of access to mental health services can have significant consequences on the students — everything from, on one end, trying to reduce suicide rate […] to unmet mental health needs leading students to drop out or delay their education,” Pan said. “We do know there’s a high percentage of students who do develop significant mental health challenges and that if they had access to treatment, they would be able to manage them and progress and address those.”
Pan is considering reintroducing SB 968, according to The Sacramento Bee. Newsom’s budget team also told The Bee that the UC has “yet to hire 15 more counselors and three psychiatrists,” and funds will be allocated to help the system finish the hiring that it committed to doing, although student enrollment is now outpacing the UC’s projections for its five-year hiring plans.

While Newsom’s proposed budget for higher education may seem like a significant increase over last year’s, not everyone is happy with it, according to the Los Angeles Times. The LA Times reporting suggested that Newsom’s proposal was disappointing to the UC Regents, given that they requested an increase of $447.6 million and were only granted $240 million.

Others have expressed hope for what this funding may look like for the UC system. Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a representative for District 4 which encompasses UC Davis, commended Newsom’s efforts in an email sent to The California Aggie.

“I applaud Governor Newsom for reaching even further toward the accessibility goal and for his sensitivity to the fact that we are graduating a generation of students with an increasingly crushing burden of debt before they even contemplate their working lives,” Aguiar-Curry said. “We should not give up on the dream of removing all financial AND non-financial barriers to post-secondary education.”

Additionally, some UC officials have expressed their gratitude for the “substantial investment” in higher education in a statement distributed immediately after Newsom’s budget plan was released.

“We are pleased the governor has affirmed his commitment to not only the university, but also the students and families across California who rely on adequate state investment in the outstanding education at UC,” said the UC Board of Regents Chair George Kieffer and UC President Janet Napolitano in an email. “Gov. Newsom’s budget represents a welcome step and a solid down payment in addressing priorities of the university’s 2019-20 budget plan.”

Written By: CLAIRE DODD and JOHN REGIDOR — campus@theaggie.org