Californians worried about UC, Cal State tuition increases, survey shows
A strong majority of Californians are concerned about steep tuition hikes at the University of California and California State University, according to a report released late Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.
In addition, more respondents favored increasing their own taxes than raising students fees.
The findings are part of a statewide public survey that also found broad support for increasing state funding of higher education, combined with concern that education costs are keeping many qualified students from attending college.
“The increasing support for higher education in the context of California’s poor economy is what surprises,” said Mark Baldassare, the institute’ s president and chief executive. “For the public, higher education still holds out that promise of a better future for themselves, their neighbors and the next generation of Californians.”
The survey was released as University of California regents met in San Francisco to consider an 8% increase in tuition for undergraduates, and the report followed a vote by Cal State trustees last week to raise tuition 15% by next fall.
The survey was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Responses were based on a telephone survey of 2,500 residents between Oct. 19 and Nov. 2, 2010, before the latest actions by the university systems.
Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed favored spending more on higher education even at the expense of other state programs, and 62% expressed concern that the state budget crisis would result in additional cuts in education spending. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they would pay higher taxes to maintain current funding, while the same percentage said they would not be willing to do so.
But in the latest poll, more residents expressed a willingness to pay higher taxes to maintain education funding than did last year, when 41% did so. Only about 35% of residents favored raising student fees to maintain funding, and 62% were opposed. Even with all the issues facing the new governor in 2011, 76% of respondents said higher education should be a priority.
Strong majorities of Californians said they believe that UC, Cal State and community colleges are doing a good or excellent job, but equal majorities across political, regional and demographic groups also said they believe that student access is an issue.
“If the systems are going to be asking for fee increases, the public wants to be assured that the people who can’t afford it are going to be able to find their way into college classrooms,” Baldassare said.
-- Carla Rivera