Historic Dynamics Shaping the Higher Education Budget in California

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The California state budget for higher education has gone through a number of iterations over the years, from the early days when both university systems were funded almost entirely from state general funds to the current day. The behavioral and fiscal attributes of the current process bear many traces of this history.

This brief by Jane Wellman and the accompanying histograms describe some of that history, focused on the strands we believe are most helpful to understanding current dynamics:

  • Changes in the allocation criteria for the two university systems (including changes in funding formulae and performance criteria over the years)
  • Changes at the state level both in the sources of general fund revenues and in patterns of state spending by functional areas; and
  • Changes in understanding the underpinnings of quality in higher education, and the relationship between spending and performance.

Together these elements shape not just the funding levels or the composition of revenues within institutions, but also the decision-making dynamics between the state and the systems, and between systems and individual campuses.