About the Initiative

California has a window of opportunity to ensure the state’s public universities provide a route to advancement for future generations.

Hundreds of thousands of our students who would benefit from a bachelor’s degree are being left out because the system for financing our public universities in California isn’t working. We cannot solve the problem without changes in the public university system—at the University of California and the California State University—and with the government systems that provide funding for these institutions. If we want our next generation of students to succeed and if we want our state to be competitive in the global economy, we must tackle this problem.

Addressing this challenge will be difficult, but it is possible.
We must start by building a shared understanding between public policy makers and higher education leaders of the problem as well as practical ways to solve it.

As an essential first step, College Futures Foundation has issued a report that presents a comprehensive analysis of the higher education finance issue and offers a framework for reform.

As with any difficult political problem, everyone will need to contribute something. Our role at College Futures Foundation is to be an honest broker for sound research and good ideas.

Why It’s Important

  • Our economy needs a highly skilled workforce, more four-year degrees, and more diverse graduates.
  • Demand for higher education is growing, while access is shrinking.
  • Historically underrepresented students, now the majority of recent high school graduates, are disproportionately affected when access to higher education is cut.

The report is designed to be the beginning of a candid, practical conversation organized around a resolution we should all agree to—that our students deserve the chance to succeed and that we owe it to them to give them that opportunity.

California’s current fiscal circumstances offer education and policy leaders some flexibility to take actions that they might not be able to take during a recession. That window of opportunity will not remain open for long.


College Futures Foundation is a private foundation working to help low-income and underrepresented students in California to earn a four-year college degree. We began examining this issue because we could not ignore what has become a major obstacle in the path to success for this and future generations of California students, for our higher education institutions, and for our own work.

In 2016, College Futures conducted a series of quiet conversations with experts with deep experience across public policy in general and higher education finance in particular. We used these conversations to review research, to test ideas and language, and to help formulate a realistic and actionable plan.

The forum dialogues helped to inform our work, but our findings and suggestions reflect solely the judgments of College Futures Foundation and are not meant to represent the views of the individuals or their affiliated organizations. We would like, however, to acknowledge their contributions and guidance.

Participants in the College Futures Foundation Forum on Finance

  • Roberta Achtenberg, Chair Emerita, California State University Board of Trustees
  • Lande Ajose, Executive Director, California Competes
  • Nathan Brostrom, Executive Vice President, University of California
  • Patrick Callan, President, Higher Education Policy Institute
  • Michael Cohen, Director, California Department of Finance
  • John Decker, Lecturer, UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy
  • Hans Johnson, Director of the Higher Education Center and Senior Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California
  • Michael Kirst, President, California State School Board of Education and Professor Emeritus, Stanford School of Education
  • Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Patrick J. Lenz, Higher Education Consultant, Patrick J. Lenz and Associates
  • Ana Matosantos, Policy and Fiscal Consultant, and Former Director, California State Department of Finance
  • Jim Mayer, President/Chief Executive Officer, California Forward
  • Scott Pattison, Executive Director, National Governors Association
  • Steve Relyea, Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, California State University
  • Daniel Schnur, Director, Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, University of Southern California
  • Michele Siqueiros, President, the Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Amy Supinger, Principal, Supinger Strategies

Authors of Commissioned Background Papers

  • Darcie Harvey, Consultant to College Futures Foundation, and Senior Policy Analyst, Higher Education Policy Institute
  • Mark Hill, Consultant and Former Program Budget Officer, California Department of Finance
  • James Hyatt, Former Chief Finance Officer, University of California, Berkeley, and Associate, Center for the Study of Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dennis Jones, President Emeritus, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Boulder, Colorado
  • Patrick Kelly, Vice President, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Boulder, Colorado
  • Amy Supinger, Principal, Supinger Associates, Sacramento, California
  • Jane Wellman, Senior Advisor, College Futures Foundation