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Public higher education provides economic eng

Posted On : April 5th, 2011

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Representatives from California's three main public higher education systems are going to the Capitol today to preserve the economic prosperity that our communities have been waiting to see for a number of years.

This year's Higher Education Advocacy Day comes at a pivotal moment. According to a recent report, California added nearly 100,000 new jobs in February. At the same time, however, the realities of the state's budget deficit are threatening cuts beyond the $1.4 billion proposed in January for the California State University, the University of California and the California Community Colleges.
These figures bring me to a question I am often asked: Why should public resources be invested in higher education?
My answer is the same wherever I go, whether it is in the checkout line at my local supermarket or in a legislator's office at the Capitol: In the course of your average day in Sacramento, consider how many Sacramento State graduates you encounter on your errands, in your meetings or during your appointments. Now think about the consequences of them not being there.

Sacramento State graduates are found in the areas of the community that touch us the most.
This includes the police officers and sheriff's deputies who keep our neighborhoods safe, and even the police chief, county sheriff and district attorney themselves. Sacramento State grads were named California Teacher of the Year and Sacramento City Unified School District Teacher of the Year. And nursing students are performing community service in local schools and clinics before they graduate to better prepare them for careers in the region's hospitals and doctors' offices.

These examples barely scratch the surface, but for me, they are the most compelling and important answer to the question posed. That's why throughout April, our campus is celebrating Alumni Month and recognizing the amazing contributions of our graduates on the region we share.
Some key numbers also illustrate this point. Almost 80 percent of the 26,288 students enrolled last fall at Sacramento State came from Sacramento County or one of its bordering counties.

Our campus's overall impact on the state economy is $1 billion, which sustains nearly 9,000 jobs across California.
If you add the 122,000 students served by UC Davis and the Los Rios Community College District – along with the enormous impact they and their campuses create – public higher education's value as an economic engine in the Sacramento region becomes readily apparent.
Another factor when considering the value of public higher education is the human capital our institutions produce.
The vast majority of Sacramento State's 205,000 alumni have stayed in the region – largely because they have a deep connection to where they grew up. About $2.9 billion of those alumni's earnings are attributable to their college degrees.

These graduates have taken advantage of classes that were informed by leaders in the economic sectors that now employ them. Many of our academic programs and colleges have advisory panels that help give our curricula a solid footing in the real world, which in turn gives students a leg up when they walk into that first job interview.
Sacramento State also has created courses of study in the most promising sectors, including the California Smart Grid Center's aim to educate the next generation of clean energy workers and a new degree in environmental studies.
As public institutions, we acknowledge that we must be part of the solution for closing the state budget deficit, and we have taken many actions to sustain our enrollments as much as possible during the recent years of cuts.
At Sacramento State, these measures include reducing travel, going "paperless" in many offices, moving to virtual servers for our computers, shifting summer school off of state support and adjusting work and building hours to reduce energy costs. We are also examining every aspect of our academic programs, such as whether our general education course requirements can be handled more efficiently.

The CSU system's share of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget cuts is $500 million, and we have been planning for that reduction without additional increases in student tuition or large-scale cuts in enrollment. Further reductions in support to the CSU system, however, would necessitate large, painful structural changes and jeopardize the access to quality higher education that for decades has been a hallmark of our system.
I hope that it doesn't come to that. At this point, a short-term "slash and burn" strategy for balancing the budget would destroy the healthy foundation our state needs to return to prosperity.

We know that when the economy does bounce back, there will be a demand for educated graduates in all segments of the workforce, and everyone in California will be better served by those jobs staying right here in our state, rather than having employers look to other states or nations.

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