April 29, 2017

EDITORIAL: Tuition is going up — What now?

Sacramento State senior Monique Graham speaks at a press conference at the Capitol on March 13 introducing the 'Degrees not debt' scholarship proposal. 'Degrees not debt' is one of several proposals being discussed at the Capitol that would lessen the financial burden of college costs. (Screenshot courtesy of Anthony Rendon via Twitter)

Now that the California State University Board of Trustees has decided to raise tuition for the first time in six years, it’s up to the state legislature to act to ensure that a university education in this state doesn’t become less affordable.

Thankfully, the tuition increase was approved with the caveat that it will not go into effect if the state makes up the $168 million shortfall between the CSU projected budget and Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal.

Furthermore, there are several bills and proposals on the table in the legislature that could render the tuition increase a non-issue — or at least lessen its financial burden.

One of those is Assembly Bill 1356, which was proposed earlier this month by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton.

If passed, AB 1356 would add a 1 percent tax on Californians making $1 million. The revenues — which are projected to generate $2.2 billion each year according to The Sacramento Bee — would be placed in a fund to pay for California residents who want to attend one of the three systems of public college education in the state.

Another proposal, which The State Hornet recently endorsed in an editorial, is the “Degrees not debt” scholarship spearheaded by Sacramento State alumnus and Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

The scholarship — which for CSU students would be worth $21,000 per year, the average annual total cost of attending a CSU when expenses beyond tuition are included — would be available to students in families making up to $150,000 per year.

Students would have to work 15 hours a week year-round to participate. Students whose families make between $60,000 and $150,000 would pay a portion of it depending on income level. Students whose family income is over $150,000 would not be able to participate.

Assembly Bill 393, also known as the Student Protection Act, is yet another bill intended to deal with the cost of college. Introduced in February by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, AB 393 would freeze tuition at all three systems of public college education at 2016 levels through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

It is good that legislators are being proactive in trying to craft solutions to the rising cost of education, but it’s up to the students to make their voices heard if they anticipate these going anywhere.

That’s already happened to an extent. The Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach at which tuition was raised last week saw student protesters both inside and outside the meeting hall.

Sac State’s Associated Students, Inc. representatives have been lobbying legislators on working around the tuition increase.

But when ASI representatives say that keeping tuition prices down is only one of several priorities, it is fair to point out that this can’t be an issue that is first among equals.

Working on the legislature to prevent a tuition rise is the single most important thing ASI representatives or any CSU student involved in state-level politics can do right now.

If the legislators want to act, now it’s time to make them.

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