According to a new Strategies 360 poll released on Monday, the majority of Californians believe that University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) tuition is too expensive, despite the vast majority agreeing that a college degree is valuable to have.
In total, 77% of Californians believe that having a four-year degree is valuable, while only 21% said that it was not valuable. Along with an even higher 84% saying that a post-secondary degree of any kind, such as a two-year degree from a community college or trade training center, is valuable as well, it showed that the vast majority of Californians still believe in the value of getting higher education.
“A degree or trade certification or something that requires more education or training past high school is pretty much the new norm now,” explained Sarah Teague, an Orange County career counselor and advisor to several private schools on higher education, to the Globe on Monday. “Even a generation or two ago, a high school degree was all you really needed to get a decent job. But the higher-paid low skilled jobs have continued to dry up. Jobs with degrees or needed knowledge of a trade whether it be through apprenticeships or trade schools have now become the baseline for a job with a decent income. It’s still possible for those with only high school degrees to get a job with decent pay, but that is quickly disappearing.
“This is why we’re seeing so many people in favor of higher education. It’s the new way to achieve the American dream.”
However, despite so many believing and wanting a college degree, many say that it is unaffordable, specifically among Californian schools. According to the survey, only 33% of Californians find UC schools as affordable, with only 37% finding CSU schools affordable.
UC, CSU schools found to be unaffordable
Broken down by race, more Asian and white Californians found the schools more affordable than black or Latino Californians. At UC schools, 41% of Asians, 36% of whites, 29% of blacks, and 28% of Latinos found it affordable. CSU schools fared slightly better, with 52% of Asians, 41% of whites, 38% of blacks and 27% of Latinos finding it affordable.
While costs vary depending on credit load, where the student lives, campus location, and other factors, CSU has released estimates for the 2022-2023 school showing in-state students paying anywhere between $17,000 and $34,000 a year. UC schools were a bit more expensive, with in-state students paying on average $38,000 a year living off campus and $35,000 a year on campus. While other factors are in play here, such as prolonged degree times and scholarships, with UC statistics showing that 56% of students receive a scholarship of some kind, the comparison of costs show that it can be prohibitively expensive for many.
“For a lot of poorer families, especially families of color, paying this is almost impossible,” added Teague. “It’s not a knock on quality, as many UC and CSU schools are prestigious and make top university lists all the time, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. It’s just, $35,000. If you’re paying for school with a part time job, it is extremely hard to do, if not impossible, especially if work hours clash with class times. If it’s student loans, that’s an easy $140,000 you are now in the hole for in a state where rent can eat up a third or half a month.
“I have students all the time who either put off their dream school while they go to community college for a few semesters to knock out pre-requisite classes or just forgo college for awhile. And these are private schools that have a much higher rate of graduation and college attendance that public schools in the area. This is just the reality now and you are seeing it reflected in the poll. It really isn’t affordable.”
As for a solution, many Californians in the poll could not decide between student tuition increasing or taxpayers paying more to keep costs down, with 24% saying taxpayers, 18% saying tuition costs, 28% saying some of each, and 30% just not knowing.
“There’s no easy answer. Everyone wants college to be affordable, but no one wants the burden of it,” said Teague.