The California State Assembly passed the Middle Class Scholarship bill with a bipartisan vote of 54-25 on Aug. 13.
The approval of Assembly Bill 1500 by the Assembly symbolizes a big step closer toward higher education affordability for California’s middle class students. The Middle Class Scholarship is geared toward helping students from middle class families with an income of up to $150,000 reduce tuition fees by two-thirds.
“Anytime you can get a bipartisan two-person vote, that clearly shows that there’s a lot of amends for the bill. We’re very encouraged by the efforts of student groups all over the state, including at UC Davis, who have been very strong in terms of helping us get the word out and get support built up for the Middle Class Scholarship,” said John Vigna, spokesperson to California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. “We just essentially need to keep the pressure and make sure that a handful of senators who need to pass the bill do the right thing and vote ‘yes.’”
According to Vigna, the upcoming weeks will be crucial in ensuring that senators understand the importance and positive effects the Middle Class Scholarship will have on the state of California and make the right choice.
Many students remain optimistic about the bill’s passage in the Senate.
“There are no substantial scholarships for middle class, Caucasian women, regardless of my honor roll GPA. Even if there were scholarships out there for someone in my predicament, I hardly have the time to apply for them between work and school,” said fourth-year political science major Angel Rogers. “I am very optimistic about AB 1500 and the Middle Class Scholarship because I want my brother and sisters to go to college, but I would never want them to have to go through my experience. I only wish that the Middle Class Scholarship and AB 1500 had passed sooner.”
In order for the Middle Class Scholarship – which is composed of two bills – to be funded, both AB 1500 and AB 1501 must pass and each must take effect. AB 1501 is the scholarship itself and AB 1500 will provide the funding for the scholarship by closing a corporate tax loophole.
“If corporations are going to be paying for our tuition breaks in the form of taxes, I don’t see anything wrong about this. I think it’s a great way to transfer wealth and make this state a place for more equal opportunities,” said third-year economics student Henry Shin.
The passing of AB 1500 indicates that it will now be considered by the State Senate along with AB 1501 which passed earlier this year. If both bills pass the Senate, it will be considered by the governor.
“We’re all very excited. This bill addresses a very critical issue facing the state which is obviously higher education affordability and tax fairness for California businesses. But it’s also, I think, symbolic of our larger efforts to rebuild and stop reacting to the recession that happened a few years ago,” Vigna said.
The Middle Class Scholarship would save an estimated 42,000 UC students approximately $8,169 and 150,000 California State University (CSU) students $4,000 annually.
“Most kids are taught to do well in school so you can go to college and … get your degree and get a decent job and have a good middle class life, and we’ve really undercut that commitment with these fee hikes over the last 10 years,” said Vigna. “And at a certain point we just have to say stop, enough is enough. And go back to the way things were, which worked very well for California. We need to make the decision, as a state, that we are going to move forward and [the] Middle Class Scholarship is definitely a part of that.”
LILIANA NAVA OCHOA can be reached at email@example.com.