State Assembly higher education committee considers creating STEAM-focused UC campus

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During its Tuesday hearing, the higher education committee of the California State Assembly voted in favor of moving forward with a bill that would create a new UC campus dedicated to STEAM fields, which are science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Mike Gatto, would allocate $50 million toward land acquisition at a currently undecided location for the new STEAM-focused campus. The committee’s vote means that the bill will move on to the Assembly’s committee on appropriations.

“If you look at the things that are the highest-paying jobs right now … these are things that combine somewhat of an artistic knowledge with also a very technical knowledge,” Gatto said during the hearing. “It just makes sense to have a University of California campus that focuses on this.”

Because the bill has an annual cost of more than $150,000, it will be placed in the suspense file to be considered by the appropriations committee at a hearing after the state budget has been prepared, when the committee has a better idea of the state’s available funds. This hearing will take place at some point in May or June, according to Eric Menjivar, Gatto’s communications director.

According to Kevin Cook, a research associate for the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, previous research done by the institute suggests that there are not enough college graduates in STEAM majors to keep up with future demand. Cook added that while scientific knowledge is highly valued in today’s economy, creating an entirely new campus is not necessarily the best path toward increasing the number of STEAM majors.

“It is true that STEM majors have the lowest unemployment rates and earn more over their lifetime than graduates in non-STEM fields,” Cook said in an email. “However, it is not clear that adding a new campus dedicated to producing STEM graduates would be a more efficient use of resources than simply funding enrollment increases at current UC campuses.”

In addition to the proposed new STEAM campus, the committee also voted to move forward with a bill that would cap the nonresident population at UC campuses. According to Shelly Meron, a UC spokesperson, this enrollment cap could actually hurt California residents.

“Nonresident students provide an important source of revenue that helps UC maintain quality, access and affordability for California students,” Meron said in an email. “We are concerned that (this bill) will further hamper UC’s ability to enroll all eligible California students and provide them with the financial aid and quality education they deserve and expect.”

Meron added that the UC system has not taken a position on the bill to create a new UC campus.

Contact Logan Goldberg at [email protected].