In California, New Debate Over an Old Funding Law
September 12, 2023
The Fifty Percent Law, enacted more than 50 years ago, requires community colleges in the state to spend at least half their budget on instruction.
Long-standing tensions over a controversial California law are resurfacing as COVID emergency relief funds for higher education dry up. The legislation, enacted in 1961 and known as the “Fifty percent Law,” requires community colleges to spend at least half their budget on instructional costs.
Unique to California, the law is beloved by faculty members—who say it prioritizes smaller classes and full-time instructors—and disdained by many administrators, who argue that it prevents them from funding other vital programs, including food and housing supports to meet students’ basic needs, new technology, and student advising.
“It pits staff and administration against faculty, which is what we don’t want,” said Kindred Murillo, a longtime California community college administrator who recently retired. “We want everybody working together for the benefit of students.”