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Who Will Educate the Next Generation of California Youth?

The state's fiscal crisis and higher education in California

By Victor M. Rodriguez Dominguez
Published on LatinoLA: July 11, 2009


Who Will Educate the Next Generation of California Youth?


Higher Education in California is facing the greatest challenge in its history. But Latino youth will pay a disproportionate share of the consequences for the crisis in the next few years. The impasse between Governor Schwarzenegger and the state legislature have created the conditions for an ever further worsening of the economy of this state.

The cut in $584 million in the budget of the California State University system has led Chancellor Charles B. Reed, to inform that the 23 institutions that make up the CSU, will accept 10,0000 less students this Fall 2009 term. Also a few days ago he announced that there will be no admissions in any of the 23 universities for the Spring 2010 semester/quarter. This will mean that a total of 45,000 California students will be left without choices for a four-year institution. That is, unless they come from families with the resources to pay for a private college education.

The chancellor also announced that employees, both faculty and staff, will be asked to accept furloughs to reduce the $584 million in budget cutbacks the system will face this next fiscal year. Even if there are furloughs faculty and staff are also likely to suffer layoffs. The quality of education could likely suffer impacting how many students per faculty, how much time faculty has to provide mentoring and research. In addition, entering students will experience a 10 per cent increase in tuition this year. It seems also likely that in the July 21 meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees an additional 20 per cent raise in tuition will be approved. Cumulatively, this will mean a 32 per cent rise in tuition costs for CSU students.

The CSU system, with its 433,000 students is the second largest higher education system in the state. The other two, the University of California, with 220,000 students and the California Community Colleges (CCC) with 1,548,000 constitute the three-tiered system of higher education in this state. However, it is the CSU who makes the largest contribution to the education of Latinos in the state. Only 3 per cent of UC students are Latinos while Latinos make-up 8 per cent of the 433,000 CSU students. While the CCC has a larger percentage of Latino students, the community colleges do not offer a bachelor which is required in most professions. Therefore, the larger burden of educating the next professional Latino generation rests on the shoulders of the CSU.

These dramatic budget cuts come at a time when studies suggest that by 2025 close to two in five jobs (41 per cent) will require a university degree. Unfortunately, given that Latino are almost 50 per cent of those in the public educational system the reduction in access to a university degree will have a dramatic disparate impact on Latino youth. This lack of access at a time when, according to Deborah Santiago 2006 study supported from the Tomas Rivera Public Policy Institute, the percentage of Latinos earning a bachelor has not changed significantly in the last 25 years. The percentage has hovered between eight and 10 per cent. These cuts will significantly make these numbers decline even further.

Ironically, the restriction in access to higher education for California youth comes at a time when by 2025, 41 per cent of the jobs will require a bachelor. Given that the "baby boomer" generation will be retiring in a few years and that they tend to have the highest level of education, we will be facing a gap between supply and demand. According to Hans Johnson and Ria Sengupta (2009), the state will need one million more college graduates than what the system of higher education provides. These cuts will increase the gap between supply and demand and will reduce this state's ability to compete in an increasingly competitive world.

The lack of an educated workforce, which by 2020 will be 50 per cent Latino, will impact the social security and pension systems which many of the "baby boomers" will be counting on for their economic survival. If Latino youth is not educated, it will affect us all, regardless of national origin, ethnicity or race.

The CSU, according to the Blue Sky Consulting Group (April 2008) contributes to the support of 207,000 jobs and the circulation of $13.6 billions through the state's economy. This does not include the thousands of faculty, staff and administrators employed on the 23 universities. So in addition to the educational effects the economic effects will be immediate and substantial.

We have to invest in the future now, and it is our responsibility to tell Sacramento what we need for ourselves and the future of this state.

About Victor M. Rodriguez Dominguez:
Sociologist, Professor, Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at California State University, Long Beach.Latino Politics in the U.S.: Race, Class and Gender in the Mexican American and Puerto Rican Experience. Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt Press, 2005.)
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