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Higher Education in California: An Introduction to the State’s Public Colleges & Universities

Since the Spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of billions of people worldwide. Seemingly overnight, our colleges and universities transitioned their entire operations online.

There is no playbook for how to best respond to this global pandemic. While it is virtually impossible to predict the lasting impact that COVID-19 will have on our students and our state, we must collectively ensure vulnerable students do not fall off their college pathways and that state leaders understand that investing in higher education is critical, especially in times of crisis. This publication provides a summary of higher education in California with specific information on enrollment, tuition/fees and financial aid, governance, and state funding in our public community colleges and universities. We also offer recommendations for how to strengthen college opportunity and student success.California’s college graduates provide the healthcare, science innovation, and safety net needed to get through this COVID-19 pandemic. They will be the ones who help the state recover from the economic downturn. Severe cuts to California’s colleges and universities will threaten access, financial aid, and college completion, ultimately hurting the state’s long-term economic future.The Legislature and Governor Newsom must work together to prevent the disproportionate impact higher education cuts will have by race/ethnicity and income on our most vulnerable students, including undocumented students. Leaders should not balance the budget on the college dreams of our students.

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