Fact Sheet

2023 State Budget Priorities Letter

RE: 2023-24 State Budget for Higher Education: Preserving Opportunity and Fueling Equitable Economic Recovery

Dear Chairs Skinner, Ting, Laird, & McCarty:

On behalf of the Campaign for College Opportunity, I write to share our support for investments in college access and student success through the 2023-24 State Budget. We are deeply grateful that, amidst budget uncertainty, the January budget proposal protects and preserves higher education funding, and we look forward to working with you to enact a final budget that protects college opportunity for California’s students.

The Campaign for College Opportunity is a broad-based, bipartisan coalition, including business, education, and civil rights leaders that is dedicated to ensuring that all Californians have an equal opportunity to attend and succeed in college to build a vibrant workforce, economy, and democracy. As the legislature works within the constraints of a significant budget deficit, we are appreciative of your continued leadership and commitment to ensuring that access to higher education is built upon a solid foundation of stable funding and targeted goals to support racial equity and improve student success. In support of these shared goals, we urge the legislature and Governor to prioritize the following strategic investments:

Pairing Stable Base Funding with Targeted Goals for Student Access and Success

As California works toward an ambitious 70% college attainment goal, it is more important than ever that policymakers embrace a multi-year strategic approach to budgeting and improving specific student access and success outcomes. The Higher Education Compacts with the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU), and the Roadmap for California’s Future for California Community Colleges (CCC) position the legislature to provide critical oversight into progress each system makes toward improving on time completion and meeting affordability goals, while simultaneously responding to troubling declines in student enrollment and persistence.

Our recent report “Illuminating Innovations: Protecting Student Enrollment at California Community Colleges Amid a Pandemic” provides insight into a 19% enrollment decline at the CCC, which has disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaskan Native (AIAN) students. At colleges where enrollment declines have been significantly less severe, campus leadership prioritizes expanding direct, holistic student support services, and deepening culturally responsive collaboration across their institutions and with external partners. These promising practices offer tangible solutions to combat declining student enrollment and persistence. Our upcoming report will similarly look at enrollment declines at the CSU: early findings suggest that while enrollment declines at the system level are much less severe at the CSU than at the CCC, there is wide variance between CSU campuses, and campuses who can offer promising practices to lessen enrollment declines. However, this level of student-centered, coordinated response requires stable base funding increases for higher education, and direct investments to fund innovative solutions. We respectfully urge you to prioritize the following:

Keeping the College Dream Affordable

The need to comprehensively reform and equitize the Cal Grant remains a racial and gender equity imperative in college:

the majority of low-income students who are still ineligible for aid are Black, Latinx, women, and student parents. We respectfully urge the Governor and legislature to prioritize new, ongoing resources to fully adopt the Cal Grant Equity Framework. In order to fuel an equitable economic recovery and meet the total cost of attendance. As we work toward meeting our ambitious 70% college attainment goal, it is critical that policymakers ensure that financial aid resources are directed to our neediest students. Policymakers should also carefully examine proposed investments in financial aid across higher education to ensure aid is targeted to California’s most economically vulnerable students. By simplifying the Cal Grant process and doing away with racially inequitable barriers of GPA to access financial aid, we can keep the college dream affordable for generations of Californians to come.

As California moves into an endemic state and education continues to evolve to meet the emerging needs of our students, this moment requires that student-centered progress at our colleges is supported with funding stability. We deeply appreciate your leadership and willingness to consider our budget priorities, as well as your continued efforts on behalf of California’s students.

Thank you for your leadership,

Sara Arce
Vice President of Policy & Advocacy The Campaign for College Opportunity