Spring 2012

From the President

President Richmond

If estimates are correct, this will be the year that more of HSU’s operational budget will be paid by students than by the state of California. That is, student tuition fees will outgrow state funds.

Students: $51 million. State: $50 million.

The way I read that score, California is losing. We know our prosperity depends on highly educated citizens, but we are cutting back our investment in college opportunity. It could get even worse if a tax measure (Proposition 30) is rejected by voters in November, and the “trigger” cut slashes another $5 million from HSU’s budget.

This is not how it was supposed to be. California has historically led the way in providing very affordable and accessible higher education. We showed the world how that investment can pay dividends in a high quality of life and a thriving economy. I certainly benefitted, like so many of you. I remember paying just hundreds of dollars to cover tuition when I attended San Diego State University.

Of course, we have seen this coming for some time. The trends have been clear to anyone paying even passing attention to the shrinking state investment in higher education. And we all know the Great Recession has wreaked havoc on budgets at all levels.

However, it is striking how fast it happened. Just last year, even after many years of reductions, state appropriations still covered $13 million more of our operations than student tuition. The year before, it was $19 million more. As far as state funding goes, we are in a free-fall.

This is all incredibly hard on students. I have heard from so many of them who are struggling, who will end up borrowing more and working longer at part-time jobs—that is, if we can actually keep them in school.

More broadly, it raises questions about how California will regain its economic strength. Higher education is a vital engine for our economy. Instead of doing what we need to do, we are cutting back. We are reducing our investment in higher education, reducing enrollment and raising cost barriers for students. Will our best and brightest simply leave the state? Or worse, will they opt out of higher education altogether?

This fall, Californians will have an opportunity to take the first steps in turning things around. As you consider the tax measure on the November ballot, I urge you to remember the importance of not only higher education, but of our elementary and secondary schools. I hope you will conclude that it is time, once again, to invest in California’s future.

Rollin Richmond
Rollin C. Richmond