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PPIC: Californians and higher education poll

November 11, 2009

Dear Kris,
Tonight, the Public Policy Institute of California released a new public opinion survey on the perspective of Californians on higher education. I wish I could have included this in my e-mail this morning, but the survey was embargoed until 9pm tonight. The study provides great news to California's community colleges. The public believes that you are doing the best job of the t hree segments of public higher education. A full 65% of respondents rate the job that community colleges as "excellent" or "good." We are also the only segment that has a 60% or better excellent/good rating in each of the five identified demographic regions in California.

Californians are deeply concerned with budget cuts to higher education, with 70% finding the cuts as a "big problem" and an additional 21% believing that they are "somewhat of a problem." That's 91% of respondents that have a sense of the pain you are facing each day on your campus.

An astounding 86% of respondents believe that overall affordability of education in California's public colleges and universities is a problem. The only significant concerns identified by voters on an open-ended question are affordability and the impact of budget cuts. I believe that is unprecedented.

While Californians believe that budget cuts are devastating access and affordability to our colleges and an overwhelming majority (70%) believe additional state funding would lead to major improvements, they neither support increased taxes nor student fees to solve the problem. This is the great conflict between Californians and their government--they want more services, but they don't want to pay for it.

In addition to concerns with affordability and fee increases, voters are deeply concerned with enrollment limitations, course reductions and the sacrifices college faculty and staff are making during this crisis.

I have read many polls on Californians and higher education. I'm pretty sure that the fears of insufficient access and affordability have never been greater. However, there is so little trust in state leaders (the Governor's approval rating in the poll is 28% and the Legislature's is 18%) that there is a huge belief that state government has enough waste to eliminate to fund priority programs, like community colleges. However, after $60 billion in cuts last year and a budget shortfall of $10-15 billion next year, colleges are now pitted against children's health care, firefighters and cops.

We must continue telling the story and making the case. California's future depends on it.

Read the complete poll.

Scott Lay
President and Chief Executive Officer
Orange Coast College '94