States' Focus on Public Colleges Collides With Budget Reality

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Russel A. Daniels, Associated Press

In this July 15, 2009 file photo, University of California employees and students rally outside of U.C. San Francisco Mission Bay Community Center during the UC's Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco. California's financial crisis is dealing a devastating blow to its world-renowned system of higher education, reducing college opportunity for its residents and threatening the state's economic recovery.

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Russel A. Daniels, Associated Press

In this July 15, 2009 file photo, University of California employees and students rally outside of U.C. San Francisco Mission Bay Community Center during the UC's Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco. California's financial crisis is dealing a devastating blow to its world-renowned system of higher education, reducing college opportunity for its residents and threatening the state's economic recovery.

For decades, policy analysts have warned that a steady erosion of state support was undermining the basic foundations of public colleges and universities. Nowhere in the 2008-9 academic year was the damage more sudden and severe than in the five states of the Pacific West.

The region relies on public colleges and universities to educate a greater proportion of its students than any other part of the country does. Those institutions have thrived on picturesque campuses, dynamic job