By: Phil Ting

Is California actually proposing to create a “lost generation” denied access to the jobs and the opportunities of a knowledge economy?

After reading the breaking story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the plan to eliminate state grants for graduate students in California State Universities the answer appears to be, sadly, “yes.”

Eliminating the State University Grant

The proposal is to block financial aid for all of the CSU’s 20,000 graduate students supported with need-based scholarships called State University Grants. This means the children of the middle class, from working families and from poor families, will face even more limited access to both the jobs of the future and the jobs that we need filled to keep our economy working.

The exclusive story from the Chron’s sharp education writer Nanette Asimov reports that $90 million in financial aid is being withdrawn for the coming academic year, affecting nearly half of the system’s 40,000 graduate students.

Cuts like these, on top of the decade of state disinvestment, means we will face a growing shortage of the workers we need to fuel economic growth, from the new nurses who make our growing healthcare sector work to the programmers and engineers needed to fuel the knowledge economy.

The folly of this disinvestment in higher education can be calculated a number of ways. Most simply, it will actually cost more in the long run to cut support for higher education than it does to fund this basic need. Californians with postgraduate degrees earn dramatically more over their lifetimes than those with a B.A. or B.S, which means they pay more taxes over their lifetimes – creating a significant Return on Civic Investment.

We can also show that by limiting the supply of knowledge workers, we limit our ability to grow the knowledge economy. From Silicon Valley to job surge in bio-tech, new job growth and the promise of increased state revenue is directly correlated to our investment in quality and affordable education at all levels.

And finally the saddest fact for me, as someone who is the child of immigrants and as someone who comes from a civil rights background, is that these cuts strike at the very heart of our sense of what California is all about. They will affect the poor families, the immigrant families, the struggling working-class families. We once made a promise to these Californians – work hard and study well, and you will have access to a quality education everyone can afford. These cuts are just one more way we are slowly breaking the promise of California.

There is something we can do about it. Students affected by these cuts are organizing right now – and we need to do what we can to help them. Please sign their petition right away.

And we need to keep working to find the funds we need to make smart investments in our children – and in our state. Please join our efforts to support Speaker Pérez’s Middle Class Scholarship act to help fund higher education. Please sign here.

We’ll keep you updated as this work progresses.