Advocacy and State Relations, The California State University

CSU Remains Sound Investment for Students

A report, released this month by PPIC, focused on student debt levels to determine if investing in a college education is ultimately a good value. The study also included the continued undertone that has been repeated by the Institute during the last several years – the state is not adequately addressing higher education and its students’ needs which will ultimately negatively affect California’s future.

According to the report, “In California, reductions in state support have been unprecedented, with total general-fund contributions to the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and the community colleges falling by one-third between 2001–02 and 2011–12. These reductions have occurred even as enrollment has increased. Tuition and fees have risen dramatically, but not enough to make up for the loss in state revenue. As a result, UC and CSU spend less per capita to educate students today than they did just a few years ago.”

On the other hand, the study found overall that most students, particularly those that are attending a public university in California, graduate with little loan debt. Those that do exit the college gates with debt do so with a manageable rate of payoff making the pursuit of a degree worthwhile.

The study goes on to state, “A typical California worker with only a high school diploma can expect to earn about $1 million over a 40-year work life. A worker with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn $1.9 million.”

In addition, the study also found that even though the number of students taking out loans has grown over the past decade, the percentage is still lower than as compared to other states. This, the study notes, can be “wholly attributed to CSU.” In 2010, only 36 percent of full-time freshmen took out a loan; this is compared to the national average of 57 percent. Not only do students at the CSU take out fewer loans, they also have lower loan amounts than their counterparts at public universities throughout the country.

CSU students’ loan debt amount upon graduation is less than $17,000 while the national average stands at $30,000.

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Lastly, the study examined the return on investment for college based on majors and fields of study. PPIC found, “the economic returns of attaining a bachelor’s degree, on average, quite large regardless of major.” Even on the low end, an individual with a degree in education administration or teaching has a median annual wage of $57,000 while an individual with only a high school diploma is likely to see a median annual wage of $39,000.

In summary, PPIC believes that “if taking out loans allows a student to enroll in and complete college, assuming debt can be a very smart economic choice.”

Given this, PPIC went as far as to advocate that “even with ever-increasing college tuition due to state budget cuts, the state should find additional ways to make college affordable for greater numbers of Californians. Ultimately, the significance of a college education is larger than the gains enjoyed by any one person, California’s future prosperity depends on public policies that promote college enrollment and completion for increasing numbers of Californians.”

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