With tuition fees expected to double in the next five years for California schools, students wonder if the rise will ever simply stop.
Hope comes from state Assembly Bill 2372, or the College Affordability Act, which would “freeze” the tuition amount at University of California and California State University schools for the next five years.
Revenue for such a bill would draw from a 1 percent income tax from millionaires, raising $2 billion a year. Funds would be monitored by an accountability panel, and after five years, tuition would not be allowed to increase more than inflation.
“It should be a right for students to have access to public higher action,” said Valeria Fike-Rosales, lead organizer of Tuition Relief Now’s statewide ballot initiative. “The fees keep increasing and the fact that students don’t have the political power to do anything isn’t fair for them.”
Tuition Relief Now is an organization composed of parents, students and California residents coordinating a statewide ballot measure to increase the chances of the tuition freeze legislation. The ballot measure needs approximately 434,000 more valid signatures before Apr. 16 to qualify for the November 2008 ballot.
“I think we have a good shot at qualifying for the ballot,” said Chris Vaeth, campaign director of Tuition Relief Now. “The question we have now is the validity rate – the people who sign it must be registered voters in the county.”
Sixty percent of the revenue from the bill would be allocated to CSU and UC schools specifically for tuition and education funds. The other 40 percent would go to K-12 funding.
UC Davis has attained the second most signatures on the ballot initiative, with over 50 volunteers helping to get more signatures. Activism on campus is spreading, from a few petitioners on campus to an announcement for the organization at Saturday’s Mistah FAB and Zion-I concert.
“We have a good group and people who have been going out consistently to get signatures,” said Ted Reiterman, campaign organizer at UC Davis and first-year undeclared major. “Davis is an important campus because it’s so close to the capitol, so our volunteers are very important.”
Reiterman and 24 other UC Davis students attended the hearing for the College Affordability Act at the Assembly Higher Education Committee on Mar. 25. The Assembly approved the bill, sending it next to the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation.
Although momentum for the bill has been successful so far, opponents such as the American Taxpayer’s Association are lobbying against it. Many, such as distinguished professor of economics Peter Lindert, believe that freezing the tuition would slow the competitive market of the universities, causing crowded classrooms, poor faculty quality and compromised financial aid.
“Fee increases are unpopular, of course,” Lindert said in an e-mail interview. “Yet in this state, and in much of the world, university students can afford to pay a bit more, as long as we offer financial aid to those from truly low-income families.”
Both opinions are set to be heard at the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation in the coming weeks.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.