Capitol Alert

Poll: Public colleges are underfunded, but no appetite for higher fees

University of California, Berkeley student Cameron Morgan, center, holds up a sign as he protests with students against tuition increases in Berkeley, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.
University of California, Berkeley student Cameron Morgan, center, holds up a sign as he protests with students against tuition increases in Berkeley, Calif., on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. AP

Nearly 60 percent of Californians say state funding for California’s public colleges and universities is inadequate, but they are not willing to pay higher taxes to maintain current funding levels – or to increase student fees, according to a new poll.

While 59 percent of California adults say funding for higher education is not enough, 56 percent of adults say they are unwilling to pay higher taxes to maintain funding and 77 percent say they are unwilling to increase student fees, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Monday.

The poll reflects a deep-rooted conflict in the public’s general view of government, with a relatively large appetite for services but little desire to pay more for them. In preparation for state budget talks next year, University of California regents moved forward last month with a plan to raise tuition if the state does not give the system more money.

“Most Californians believe that higher education is very important to the state’s future and that their state government is not providing enough funding for it,” poll director Mark Baldassare said in a prepared statement. “But their concerns do not translate into support for tax increases to fund higher education, and they are even more strongly opposed to raising student fees.”

Californians express some willingness to extend current tax rates and to increase targeted taxes. A majority of adults – 53 percent – favor extending tax increases passed in 2012 under Proposition 30, according to the poll. Forty percent of adults oppose the idea, while 6 percent don’t know.

Large majorities of Californians favor increasing state taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, while a plurality of Californians oppose taxing the extraction of oil and natural gas.

The poll was released on the day new lawmakers were sworn into office in Sacramento. The Legislature’s job approval rating stands at 41 percent among California adults, according to the poll. Gov. Jerry Brown is more popular, with a job approval rating of 54 percent.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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