In first budget proposal, Gov. Gavin Newsom shows his commitment to students

STATE ISSUES: Gov. Gavin Newsom set himself apart from his predecessor with his $1.4 billion increase to higher education in his first budget proposal. We just hope this trend continues.

Emily Bi/Staff

Last week, newly-elected Gov. Gavin Newsom released his budget proposal for the next fiscal year — one that includes greater investments in California’s future with a clear commitment to equality. In the introduction of his budget, Newsom stated that “the California Dream” should be accessible to everyone, “not just a privileged few.” After former governor Jerry Brown’s disappointing last term, it’s refreshing to see that Newsom is already keeping his promises to his constituents.

A prominent aspect of Newsom’s proposed budget is the $36.4 billion allocated to higher education — a $1.4 billion increase from Brown’s last budget. This increase is essential to ensuring that higher education is accessible to all Californians.

Newsom proposed a $300 million ongoing increase for the California State University system. He also provided $40 million for California community colleges to support a second year of free tuition and an ongoing $240 million to the UC system. Last year, then-governor Brown broke an agreement he had previously made with UC President Janet Napolitano to increase state funding to the UC system by 4 percent — a move that clearly undermined and neglected California students. But at the start of his term, Newsom is setting himself apart from his predecessor by putting the needs of students first.

The $240 million allocated to the UC system supports mental health services, addresses homelessness and student hunger, improves student success efforts and funds operation costs — all of which show Newsom’s desire to increase equality and equity among students.

Included in that allocation is $5.3 million dedicated to ensuring that the UC meets recommended student-to-counselor staffing ratios and improves student mental health services. By contrast, Brown repeatedly shut down similar efforts — in 2018, he vetoed a bill that required CSU and requested UC campuses to have one full-time mental health counselor per 1,500 students.

Newsom’s concrete attempts to combat growing enrollment and housing affordability issues in his budget are admirable. The allocation of $10 million toward permanently supporting the enrollment of 1,000 additional resident students is crucial, but what’s more important is that Newsom also allocated $15 million toward the UC’s efforts to address student housing and hunger.

While the UC system should continue to grow, it can’t do so without the state’s support in housing its increasing student body — especially since many UC campuses, including UC Berkeley, struggle with affordable housing. Newsom’s commitment to equality drastically differs from Brown’s, who stated that housing affordability was not as “high a priority” as the problems he dealt with as governor.

With that said, it’s important to remember that this is only the beginning of Newsom’s term. Newsom’s proposed budget, while commendable, is just that: a proposal. The true testament of his commitment will only be clear with continuous efforts to solve the state’s most pressing issues.

The burden of funding education must fall on the state, not its students, and Newsom’s budget upholds this sentiment. To Newsom: California students are counting on you to prioritize higher education throughout your term. Don’t let them down.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.