From our perspectives in the world of private research universities, we have been watching with mounting alarm the general disinvestment by states in public higher education. This is painfully true in California, and we are especially concerned about the impact on the University of California and what it bodes for our state’s future.
You might think that as the presidents of Stanford and the California Institute of Technology, we might view UC campuses primarily as rivals. This is not so (except, perhaps, on the athletic fields). Our campuses and the University of California are partners in making the state of California the economic and innovation powerhouse it is today.
As research universities, the University of California, Stanford and Caltech all undertake basic research and translate the discoveries into products and companies, powering an engine of innovation and economic growth. Universities act as magnets for talent, making California schools the destination of choice for many of the most creative people in the world. The inventions, medical breakthroughs and products that emerge from their research benefit communities across California and beyond.
Much of the world-class research conducted on our campuses is inextricably linked with research emanating from UC. If California is to remain an economic dynamo, then it needs the full capability of its research universities to be well supported.
The educational mission of our institutions is equally important, fostering an engaged citizenry and educating the next generation of talent and leaders for our state and our world. Although private research universities such as ours make significant contributions to education, we cannot match the sheer scale of public universities like the University of California. Caltech and Stanford together enroll roughly 18,000 students; UC enrolls nearly 240,000. California benefits when many of its young people have access to the quality higher-education opportunities that UC offers.
Unfortunately, the state has failed to provide adequate, consistent financial support to UC during most of the last 20 years. Over that period, steep funding cuts triggered significant tuition increases combined with cuts in staffing and faculty. The Public Policy Institute of California recently warned in its 2014 report “California’s Future: Higher Education” of the immediate and long-term dangers of cuts in state funding to UC. Per-student state funding to the University of California has fallen by roughly 25 percent over the past 10 years.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature deserve much credit for getting the California economy back on track. For the sake of future generations, a priority now must be to reinvest fully in public higher education, specifically the University of California.
At Stanford and Caltech, we need the University of California to continue to be the best public research university system in the world. Californians deserve no less.

Thomas F. Rosenbaum is president of the California Institute of Technology. John L. Hennessy is president of Stanford University.