LAO Sees Problems With Jerry Brown's Higher Education Plan

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Legislative Analyst's Office raised concerns with Gov. Jerry Brown's higher education budget in a new report today, including his plans to tighten Cal Grant requirements and automatically increase funding if his tax plan passes.

After the state slashed its higher education spending by 21 percent during the recession, the Democratic governor has proposed 4 percent annual increases to the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges for three fiscal years starting in 2013-14 -- but only if voters approve his plan to hike taxes on sales and wealthy earners. If voters reject the plan, the systems would lose state funding in 2012-13.

Brown made the 4 percent promise as a sweetener to his tax proposal, which he's trying to bill as a plan for funding education and public safety. The analyst's office recommended that lawmakers reject the 4 percent promise. Pledging to give automatic increases presents problems, the LAO said, because other parts of the budget could suffer, lawmakers would have little discretion if one higher education systemneeded more money than another, and the pledge ignores enrollment and inflation, among other reasons.

The analyst's office also raised questions with Brown's plan to increase grade-point average requirements to receive Cal Grant awards.

Low-income students would need to graduate from high school with a 3.25 GPA instead of a 3.0 to receive either full tuition at CSU and UC or nearly $10,000 in help at private schools. Students would have to have a 2.75 instead of a 2.0 to receive a lesser Cal Grant award. Students who transfer from community colleges to four-year schools would also face stricter requirements.

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