Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday the creation of a work group designed to discuss funding for students throughout California’s higher education system.
The creation of the group — outlined in Newsom’s August Economic Growth and Competitiveness Agenda — aims to make recommendations for the governor and state legislature geared around funding for higher education. The group is set to hold its first meeting in San Francisco on Sept. 15 and will meet periodically until November, according to Francisco Castillo, Newsom’s deputy chief of staff for communications.
The group consists of leaders from the public sector, such as UC President Mark Yudof, California State University Chancellor Charles Reed and California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, as well as individuals from the private sphere, including Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and Crowell and Moring senior counsel Michael Kahn. Castillo added that he is “certain” more individuals will be added to the group.
“The lieutenant governor wanted to make sure that we have a wide range of representation when we form these working groups,” Castillo said. “The private sector was an essential component, which is why we included the private sector, union reps and UC officials to have a dialogue amongst each other as to how best we can turn our finances and higher education system around.”
The group resembles a statewide version of the UC Commission on the Future, whose membership also included figures from the public and private sectors. The commission, whose stated goal was to ensure the university’s continued fiscal viability despite difficult economic times, published its final report on Dec. 6, 2010.
Jeremy Pilaar is the campus’s legislative liaison for the University of California Student Association and is currently the only student sitting on the group.
Pilaar said that he is not concerned about being the only student voice in the group and that he hopes to help find new sources of revenue for the state. He added that the UCSA is involved in a campaign to reform Proposition 13 — which, with a few exceptions, caps state property tax rates at 1 percent of a property’s value — in an attempt to target Sacramento rather than the association’s past strategies, which have targeted the UC Board of Regents, a perspective that he plans to bring to the group.
“(I’m looking for) ways to think outside the box and move past piecemeal reforms,” he said. “I’m going to be preaching coalition building and raising revenue for the state.”
Recommendations made by the group will aim to influence what actions the state legislature and the governor will take with regard to higher education. Because members have not yet convened, most have only a broad understanding of what the project will involve.
“It seems to be in the spirit of reaching out in all directions, with the three segments cooperating and looking for ways to reverse state disinvestment in higher education,” said UC spokesperson Steve Montiel.
Claudia Keith, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs for the CSU system — which has already experienced $650 million in budget cuts — said that the work group will allow for a dialogue between different leaders in the state to discuss funding in higher education.
Kahn, a UCLA graduate who has previously served in over a dozen state appointments, including within the California judiciary, said that the opportunities he has been given are due to the education he received through the UC system. He added that the group could work to ensure that similar opportunities exist for future students.
“If the other activities (Newsom has) engaged in in the jobs area are any indication, I think it will be a powerful voice,” he said. “I’m optimistic that given the lieutenant governor’s past efforts that we will be able to come up with some good ideas and that they will be given genuine attention.”
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