Photo by Melissa Abel.
Photo by Melissa Abel.

I stand in support of our fellow Californians adversely affected by cuts to higher education. Pulling over a billion dollars out of colleges and universities across California has real implications, and we’re just now starting to see the unrest that accompanies such drastic cuts.

I believe in fully funding the UC, CSU, and community college systems in this state.

Our state’s greatest asset is the vast concentration of human potential that’s defined us for generations. We’ve always been a land of dreamers and doers.

However, through these tough times, I strongly believe that by investing in our people, we can grow our way back to being the world leader in innovation and progress. Now, more than ever, we must recommit to developing and supporting the pathways of human capital investment in California.

The robust web of colleges in California and the millions of students enrolled in them are the backbone of our economy. But the way we’ve treated universities’ and colleges’ budgets doesn’t reflect their critical role in preparing our workforce.

Community college students experienced a 30% increase in per-unit fees this year. UC and CSU cost five times what they did in 1990, far outpacing inflation. California’s broken system of government leads to massive structural deficits, and our leaders have responded in recent years by thrusting the cost burden onto the backs of students.

This is unconscionable.

We should be talking about preparing people for the jobs of the 21st-century and growing a new economy, but we’re stuck fighting the same budget battles over and over again. The status quo just won’t do any longer. It’s time for a new direction.

Let’s make it easier and more affordable for Californians to obtain higher education. Let’s stop implementing enrollment caps and raising fees. This is the wrong course of action. We need a new way of thinking about providing educational opportunities. This begins with getting as many students as possible enrolled in post-high school education, ensuring funding for financial aid programs, and making sure fees are affordable for all Californians.

So we start with strengthening the Cal Grant system and rolling back fee increases. But money isn’t the whole story – California has to provide more college readiness-focused curriculum in public high schools and directly link college coursework to post-graduation work opportunities. This will take a combination of more workforce development specific coursework and investments in job placement.

Jobs in the 21st-century economy will increasingly require employees to have expertise in engineering, applied sciences, and math. College is the ideal venue for instilling these skills in tomorrow’s workforce.

A PPIC report indicates California will need one million more college graduates by 2025 than we’re on pace to produce. We must begin educating our workforce now. We cannot wait until the economy is rosy again; by then it’ll be too late.

In times of great challenge, we have to renew our resolve to fully fund our systems of higher education. Our future economic prosperity depends on it.