For years, California colleges and universities have been the best publicly funded in the nation, which fueled the state’s innovation and thriving economy. However, budget deficits have caused our state-funded colleges to shoulder painful funding cuts. Currently, the UC and CSU systems and our state community colleges are facing $1.4 billion in funding cuts.
Tax-and-spend rhetoric leaves voters to ask why taxpayers should help fund someone else’s college education. The answer is simple: California’s taxpayers benefit — both directly and indirectly — from publicly funded education, and our communities are strengthened from these institutions.
For example, in San Diego County, Cal State San Marcos generates an impact of $228.6 million on the regional economy, and more than $327.5 million on the statewide economy. For every dollar invested by the state, CSUSM generates $5.43 for California’s economy. That’s a huge return on the taxpayers’ investment.
California community colleges also impact California’s economy. For every dollar invested in community college education, the state’s revenue is increased by $3. More than 70 percent of California’s higher education students are enrolled in community colleges, which results in great dividends for the job market.
Community colleges are a bargain because they help turn out a better trained, higher paid work force. Many jobs today require specialized skills, more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree. Community colleges offer courses to upgrade job skills with vocational certificates, which many need for job opportunities.
California’s community colleges provide job training certificates in more than 175 different fields. Community colleges train workers in the fastest growing segments of the economy: health care, information technology, energy and the environment.
The business community also partners with California’s community colleges to train workers. Students can be employed during the day while attending night school classes to upgrade their education and job skills.
Community colleges have a general education transfer program that allows students to attend and transfer to a four-year university. For many local families, particularly now during the economic downturn, this allows their children to live at home while attending school.
Higher-paying employment in our communities means more disposable income, which then enters the stream of commerce and is spent in our local economies. Additionally, taxpayers benefit when more people become self-sufficient and no longer need government aid.
Thomas Jefferson understood and fought for public education. His belief that all Americans should have the opportunity through attending public schools to obtain an education contributed to the success of our nation.
Unfortunately, with the state’s proposed budget cuts, an estimated 350,000 students statewide will be turned away next year at the community college level, weakening our competitiveness in the work force.
UC San Diego contributes $7.2 billion to California’s economy. In 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked UC San Diego the seventh-best public university in the nation. UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering is ranked 17th among engineering schools, and the university’s biomedical engineering department is ranked fourth in the nation. UCSD also enrolls quality medical research students who conduct groundbreaking research for drug therapies, medical equipment and devices, and advancements in patient care that benefit everyone.
California taxpayers should carefully consider the cost-benefit analysis, because when we cut public funding for these institutions, we cut our state’s economic advantage and future prosperity. California’s economy is the eighth largest in the world. We need to continue funding higher public education to maintain our workforce.
In slashing higher education budgets, we destroy what it means to be the best and the brightest. Even though we were in a recession in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan invested heavily in science and education and it kept America on top. We must continue that tradition by funding higher education in California.