Governor Newsom’s Budget Lacks Adequate Mental Health Program Funding

0
1865
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Steven Jin

Gavin Newsom, current governor of California, has proposed an increase in funding for the UC system. His proposal leads to the UC system receiving an increase of 200 million dollars to the general fund, allotted to operational costs, enrollment growth, food and housing security, and mental health programs.

A one-time fund of 138 million dollars is also being allocated for deferred maintenance needs. Finally, an additional 15 million dollars will be expended for UC Extension programs. All of this funding will be divided evenly between the ten UCs.

The funding increases to the general fund will impact almost all students who receive some sort of financial aid. Newsom’s proposal to freeze tuition will also lessen financial burden, a significant attribution to enrollment hesitancy, in which a staggering 79 percent of potential university students attribute cost as the number one deterrent to attending college.

Newsom also proposes to set aside 15 million dollars to help reinstate students who have dropped out in the past, through financial aid, an estimate of 60,00 within the past two decades.

With all this in mind, how does Newsom’s proposal affect UCSB specifically?

In a nutshell, it will affect UCSB substantially, with the caveat that all of the funding will be utilized fully. UCSB alone has been holding the record for most new enrollments for decades, meaning that every year, operational costs will increase. Newsom’s increase of nearly 120 million dollars will greatly increase the potential for UCSB to manage and sustain a quality learning environment.

Housing options at UCSB can be either competitive with university owned housing, or expensive in Isla Vista. With Newsom’s increase in food and housing funding (15 million), hopefully, more accommodations to our increasing student population will be opened up.

Nearly 50 million dollars is also being set aside to increase student success in terms of degree attainment. Newsom was not very specific about how he plans on doing so with the lump sum of money, but I would recommend he distributes it to increasing class akavailability.

Increasing the number of classes will give students a higher chance to graduate on time. Being able to graduate on time, or even earlier, also lessens the financial burden by potentially saving a year’s worth of tuition. If financial burden is a powerful deterrent, being able to lessen it must feel invigorating.

One area I hope Newsom would revise is his allotment to mental health programs, a relatively measly allotment of only 5.3 million dollars. I strongly believe he should raise it, to match at least his 10 million dollar allotment for enrollment growth. The fact that more money is being put into increasing enrollment rather than improving mental health programs seems jaded.

Hopefully we’ve all heard of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). To some, university life can be a turbulent time and CAPS can help those afflicted. Too many tragedies have occurred recently to our UCSB family, specifically in recent memory, Shengyu “Jin” Jin and Annie Lynn Wang. I personally had loose connections with them, with Jin being a close friend of another close friend, and Annie who was in my PSY 10B class.

These students needed help.

Mental health can not in any circumstances be brushed off, as it can be a powerful indicator for both student success as well as student happiness. Instead of portioning 50 million dollars to a vague goal of student success, why not allot some of it towards mental health programs?

As great as CAPS is as a resource, it can sometimes be daunting for their staff to accommodate the entire student body, faculty, and staff. Often it can be difficult to even book a CAPS appointment, unless booked well in advance, but people can’t plan their needs.

The 5.3 million dollars for mental health programs, if divided evenly, would net each UC 530,000 dollars. This may seem like a lot, but hiring each new clinical psychologist would cost on average $80,000 (CAPS currently has 22 clinical psychologists for 25,000 people) The tools and resources CAPS offers such as Crisis Assistance can cost a heavy amount as well. Although increasing the budget for mental health care is much appreciated, it may seem like a token gesture compared to the whole budget.

Some students feel as though they don’t get nearly as enough say in the UC system, and if you feel so, you can contact them directly.  If you feel passionate about the impact of mental health on the student body population, you can directly contact Newsom as well. His proposal will be voted on in June so that leaves plenty of time for readjustments, as well as student voices to be heard.