SACRAMENTO – For the first time in more than a decade, California voters could get the chance to approve higher education bonds to improve classrooms, labs and libraries on California State University and University of California campuses under legislation approved by the Senate Wednesday.
The bill, SB 14, by joint authors Senators Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, was approved on a 33-4 vote and heads to the Assembly. It would authorize the statewide sale of $8 billion in general obligation bonds for higher education facilities at CSU and UC campuses. The bonds would go before voters in the March, 2020 primary election.
“For those of us who attended the CSU or UC, we gained the benefits of the education offered in their classrooms, labs and libraries,” said Glazer. “Those buildings didn’t just appear the day we enrolled. They were built by previous generations who had the foresight to know that future leaders of our state would emerge from the greatest higher education system in America.
“Unfortunately, we have allowed classrooms, labs and libraries to deteriorate, affecting our ability to educate our students,” Glazer added. “Without public support, the burden of financing facilities will be borne by students and their families through higher tuition and fees.”
The most recent such bond, which provided $1.6 billion to improve higher education facilities at CSU and UC, was approved by voters in 2006. All those funds have since been depleted. The last higher education-specific bond passed in 1994.
“We have an enormous infrastructural backlog at our treasured public universities,” Allen said. “SB 14 represents a smart investment in our future by giving UC and CSU the support they need to build, grow, and serve the ever-changing needs of our state.”
According to CSU and UC, the two systems have capital needs of more than $16 billion combined for short-term and long-term projects.
The CSU’s aging infrastructure is in “dire need of renovation and replacement, with more than half of our facility space being 40 years or older and a third being over 50 years old,” the CSU said in a statement.
“SB 14 provides essential funding for our campuses to expand student capacity in classrooms and labs; address fire, safety, and seismic deficiencies; and to modernize and construct facilities to keep pace with current technology and workforce needs. This is a critical measure to ensure safe and updated facilities for our students, faculty and staff and to enable CSU to prepare the next generation of California’s college graduates for the demands of the future.”
SB 14 would require universities or colleges to submit five-year capital outlay plans that prioritize seismic retrofitting needed to reduce seismic hazards in buildings identified as high priority.
The UC said it was “extremely pleased” with the passage of SB 14.
“This measure is a critically important effort to ensure that the UC has the facilities and infrastructure necessary to provide students with comprehensive educational opportunities. A general obligation bond as outlined by SB 14 will assist our campuses in developing these unfunded projects with a focus on capacity expansion to accommodate enrollment growth and renewal of existing facilities, including seismic corrections and infrastructure upgrades. We applaud Senator Glazer for his longstanding leadership in this area.
Through public hearings, CSU and UC governing boards will recommend spending choices on projects, Glazer said.
Mia Kagianas, president of the California State Student Association, said: “Without adequate infrastructure such as lecture halls, labs, libraries and dorms, it would be impossible for students to successfully obtain a higher education degree. Yet across all 23 CSU campuses, buildings are falling apart, which is why SB 14 is so necessary.”
In November, 2016, voters approved Proposition 51, a $9 billion education facilities bond, but did not include any money for the CSU or UC.
“This measure provides important financial backing for critical upgrades to our libraries and classrooms on college campuses,” Glazer said. “And I believe voters should be given a chance to continue the proud legacy of supporting our universities and colleges.”