California’s proposed budget sees increase for community colleges, delays in student housing

One-time funding is expected to curtail enrollment loss; however, student housing will likely be delayed.


Joshua D Picazo

California’s estimated revenue is now expected to be lower than initial predictions, leading to some difficult choices

Inflation. Job losses. Possible recession. Reduced tax revenue.

All of these are factors in California’s projected revenue shortfall, leading to cuts and delays in specific funding that higher education is not immune to.

Still, California’s community colleges can expect a $750 million increase in funding if Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2023-24 budget passes. However,  specific student housing grants would see a delay in funding under this proposal.

SB 169, signed into law in 2021, established the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program that would provide one-time grants to build and renovate existing spaces for housing. 50% of the funds would go to community colleges and the others to UC and CSU campuses. However, this budget would delay $900 million in money for student housing until 2025-26.

This adjustment in the budget comes during a sharp decline in enrollment that puts future funding at risk. Since the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, California’s community colleges have seen a 16% decline in enrollment. If not reversed soon, these declines could mean further cuts to community colleges.

However, Governor Newsom’s proposed budget has allocated a one-time $200 million fund to “increase retention and enrollment” efforts.

Funding for community colleges has historically come from enrollment; however, with the pandemic, this has been waived until 2025 to get campuses time to catch up with their enrollment, according to EdSource, a nonprofit organization covering education in California.

“The cuts to deferred maintenance and the delay in funding for student housing are counter to the urgency we must have to invest in our students’,” Evan Hawkins, the executive director of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, told The Skyline View.

“Community colleges receive the lowest per-student funding rate out of any of the public education segments, despite the fact that our system serves the most diverse and underserved communities. We encourage the Governor and Legislature to prioritize our colleges as the budget cycle continues,” Hawkins added.

Community colleges’ future seems tied to the health of the UC and CSU system, as transfer students have historically made many admitted students onto these campuses. For example, 20% of UC undergraduates are transfer students, whereas 37% of CSU-admitted undergraduates are transfers. In addition, recent funding has helped secure more admissions for community college transfer students from within California.

When asked if additional funding might be needed to maintain efforts to get more Californian students into the UC and CSU systems, state Senate Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) told The Skyline View, “It’s really the budget funding, and you know, priorities from [there] and it’s really about a budget, making sure that we have sufficient dollars for these efforts.”

Erik Saucedo of the California Budget and Policy Center understands the need for the cuts identifying the projected revenue shortfall as the reason but adds, “It’s important to note that the projected shortfalls are estimates and will change by the time we have an actual budget.”

“It’s unfortunate that the governor’s budget proposes to delay funding for projects aimed at supporting the urgent housing needs of students with low incomes,” Saucedo told The Skyline View.

“We know that renters, people with low incomes, Black and Latinx Californians, and Californians who are undocumented are especially likely to struggle to keep up with housing costs, and any delays to affordable housing options for students only exacerbate these barriers. The legislature will have their own budget priorities and can choose to uplift this program and find a way to secure funding while balancing the budget.

The reaction by policy experts and students seems to be universal, with most people The Skyline View spoke to vigorously advocating for the proposed housing grants to be kept in place.

“Our primary goals are to keep funding at current levels, keep housing funding on its current timeline, and ensure Cal Grant reform is implemented,” Stephanie Goldman, executive director of the Student Senate for California’s Community Colleges, told The Skyline View.

“The Proposition 98 guarantee is protected in the California Constitution and estimated to be almost 40% of the state’s revenues this year. Because the entire state budget is lower, funding for schools may also be lower. We will, however, fight for our schools and community colleges during negotiations to ensure our investment in students does not negatively impact their futures,” said Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).

The California State Legislature has until June 15th to pass the 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

This article was amended on March 3rd to include a quote from Assemblymember Phil Ting.