Californians favor state support for higher education, survey reveals

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A recent survey reveals that more Californians want to increase state support for public higher education and protect it from budget cuts.

A survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California on Jan. 30 entitled “Californians and their Government” shows that 55 percent of those surveyed responded that primary education is the sector they most want to protect from state budget cuts, with higher education being their 2nd most valued area at 18 percent. The survey also reports 17 percent of Californians name higher education as an issue the government should address, only behind the issue of jobs and the economy.

“It is reassuring to know that the second most important priority among Californians is higher education,” said Das Williams, Chair of the California Committee on Higher Education. “More Californians need to know that our higher education system is vital to the future of our economy. Companies locate in California because of access to skilled graduates.”

While only 18 percent of respondents selected higher education as the area they would like most protected by the government, PPIC research associate Sonja Petek explains that this figure alone does not reflect California’s attitudes about higher education.

“It is important to remember that a majority of Californians see higher education as important to the state’s future, it is just not their top priority.” Petek said, referring to a series of PPIC surveys conducted since 2007.

The January survey also reports that despite the tax increases imposed by Prop. 30, 70 percent of Californians in 2012 were willing to raise taxes on cigarettes and 54 percent were willing to tax corporations to fund higher education and other public services. In 2011, 52 percent of the electorate opposed any tax increase to maintain funding levels for higher education.

Shahryar Abassi, ASUC External Affairs Vice President welcomed these results saying that the passage of Prop.30 is indicative of California’s support  for higher education.

“Prop. 30 has had a big effect on how Californians view higher education, how important it is for California’s economic success,” Abbasi said.

The PPIC statewide survey is made up of the responses of 1,704 adult residents throughout the state, quizzed on topics relating to state and federal government as well as other political concerns. The PPIC conducted the survey in order to provide policymakers with objective data about California’s political climate.

Another survey published by the PPIC in December reports that 51 percent of parents want their youngest child to achieve a graduate level degree, which Petek said is the largest proportion since the survey was first conducted.

Petek does not see this trend changing over the next two years, citing the public’s awareness of how important higher education is to the future.

Contact Eoghan Hughes at [email protected].