Higher Education Finance Reform Initiative

All California students deserve the opportunity to get a high-quality, four-year college education. But that promise is being broken every day because California’s system for financing its public universities—that is, how we determine adequate funding levels and effective use of resources—is not working on behalf of students.

Hundreds of thousands of our students who would benefit from a bachelor’s degree are being left out because the system for financing our public universities in California isn’t working. We cannot solve the problem without changes in the public university system – at the University of California and the California State University – and with the government systems that provide funding for these institutions.

College Futures Foundation began examining college finance because of growing concerns that the system of paying for higher education has become a barrier to increasing bachelor’s degree attainment among low-income and first-generation Californians. If we want our next generation of students to succeed and if we want our state to be competitive in the global economy, we must tackle this problem.

Initiative Intent and Foundation Focus

We at College Futures Foundation believe that addressing the challenge of California’s dysfunctional system of higher education finance will be difficult, but doable, and that we must start by building a shared understanding between public policy makers and higher education leaders of the problem as well as practical ways to solve it.

As an essential first step, in 2016, the Foundation convened a series of private conversations among a small group of individuals with deep experience across public policy in general and higher education finance in particular. We used these conversations to test ideas and language, to review research, and to help formulate a realistic and actionable plan.

The result is a framing report from College Futures Foundation that reflects our judgments based on these discussions.

The report presents a comprehensive analysis of the higher education finance issue and offers guidance for reform. It identifies what we believe the greatest challenges to be, and it explores a range of potential solutions.

We hope with this report to contribute to a public discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing higher education finance in California. We plan to contribute to that conversation through continued analysis, elaboration of analytics, assessment of stakeholder opinions, and engagement with partner organizations.

Read the Report

To learn more about the higher education finance challenges and guidance for reform, please visit www.higheredfinance.org. The report is available there, as well as a wide variety of information on this issue, including the background papers that helped shape its recommendations. We will continue to post research and articles on the subject throughout 2017.

Partners and Participants

The forum dialogues helped to inform our work, but our findings and suggestions reflect solely the judgments of College Futures Foundation and are not meant to represent the views of the individuals or their affiliated organizations. We would like, however, to acknowledge their contributions and guidance.

Participants in the College Futures Foundation Forum on Higher Education Finance

  • Roberta Achtenberg, Chair Emerita, California State University Board of Trustees
  • Lande Ajose, Executive Director, California Competes
  • Nathan Brostrom, Executive Vice President, University of California
  • Patrick Callan, President, Higher Education Policy Institute
  • Michael Cohen, Director, California Department of Finance
  • John Decker, Lecturer, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy
  • Hans Johnson, Director of the Higher Education Center and Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California
  • Michael Kirst, President, California State School Board of Education and Professor Emeritus, Stanford School of Education
  • Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Patrick J. Lenz, Higher Education Consultant, Patrick J. Lenz and Associates
  • Ana Matosantos, Policy and Fiscal Consultant, and Former Director, California State Department of Finance
  • Jim Mayer, President/Chief Executive Officer, California Forward
  • Scott Pattison, Executive Director, National Governors Association
  • Steve Relyea, Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, California State University
  • Daniel Schnur, Director, Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, University of Southern California
  • Michele Siqueiros, President, the Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Amy Supinger, Principal, Supinger Strategies

Authors of Commissioned Background Papers

  • Darcie Harvey, Consultant to College Futures Foundation, and Senior Policy Analyst, Higher Education Policy Institute
  • Mark Hill, Consultant and Former Program Budget Officer, California Department of Finance
  • James Hyatt, Former Chief Finance Officer, University of California, Berkeley, and Associate, Center for the Study of Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dennis Jones, President Emeritus, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Boulder, Colorado
  • Patrick Kelly, Vice President, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Boulder, Colorado
  • Amy Supinger, Principal, Supinger Associates, Sacramento, California
  • Jane Wellman, Senior Advisor, College Futures Foundation