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Brown's higher education plan faces criticism in Sacramento

April 24, 2013|By Larry Gordon

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to link some extra state funding to how quickly state universities move students to graduation and to other performance measures faced criticism Wednesday at a legislative hearing.

Several legislators and university officials said they feared that the plan unfairly forced campuses to chase unrealistic and arbitrary goals when the real problem remained the deep budget cuts schools suffered during the recession.

Some said they feared Brown’s ideas could backfire by encouraging campuses to water down graduation requirements and directing students to easier majors as a way to meet Brown’s targets, which also include boosting the number of transfer students from community colleges.

Brown’s proposal would increase state revenues for UC and Cal State by 5% over each of the next two years and by 4% each of the following two years if the schools do not raise tuition and if they meet such goals as improving four-year graduation rates by 10% over that period. His aides told the Assembly’s subcommittee on education finance that it was important that the universities undertake reforms as funding increases and not return to old, bad habits.

However, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) who chairs the subcommittee, said she worries that students would suffer the most if universities don’t meet the goals and are denied the additional revenues. Bonilla also said the emphasis on four-year graduation rates could discourage campuses from enrolling more students to pursue the more challenging technology, science and math degrees that California industry needs.

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) said the state government should work on restoring education spending at a much higher rate “rather than focusing on these relatively small minded metrics that don’t seem to be in touch with the reality” of campus life.

The Brown administration said it was open to changing some of the specifics of the plan, possibly allowing Cal State to be measured by both four- and six-year graduation rates.  Cal state officials noted that many of their students attend part time because they work and have families and have no intention to finish in four years.

The subcommittee did not vote on the plan, saying it needed more study. 

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

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