Tuition-free UC, CSU proposed

OAKLAND
January 26, 2012 9:19pm
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•  Ballot initiative seeks to make state universities tuition-free

•  'Signature gatherers are people who truly believe this will benefit the state of California'


A trio of teachers and a group of students hope to return California to the days when its public universities were tuition free.

They have written a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that has been given the go-ahead to try to get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

If it were to qualify and then be approved by voters, it would add 0.7 percent to the personal income tax rate applied to taxable income over $250,000 (over $342,465 if filing as head of household), and add 1.7 percent to personal income tax rate applied to taxable income over $500,000 (over $684,930 if filing as head of household).

The money from the higher taxes on the wealthy would be used to pay up to four years’ tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate California residents attending University of California or California State University who maintain minimum 2.7 grade point average or perform 70 hours of annual community service.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst and the governor’s Director of Finance say there could be an annual loss of state tuition revenue of about $2.8 billion per year beginning in 2013-2014, backfilled by additional state personal income tax revenue that is likely to total $2 billion or more per year.

They caution that potential shortfalls in university resources in some fiscal years would have to be addressed through some combination of cost reductions and alternative funding sources, which could create pressure on the state General Fund.

“We are all full-time teachers, so this has been a challenge to find the time for all of our commitments,” says Kara Duros, a social studies teacher at Oakland Unity High School, one of the three teachers behind the proposal dubbed “College for California.”

She says the idea originated with a group of high school seniors last year at Oakland Unity High School and Life Academy High School who were concerned with the rising cost of higher education and the resulting impact on not only individual students, but also on California's economy.

With the support of teachers Suneal Kolluri, Richard Boettner and Ms. Duros, the students researched and wrote the ballot initiative to eliminate tuition and fees for higher education.

“Most of the seniors are now in college this year so College for California is now made up of these college students and many other high school and college students who are in support of this initiative. We are a completely volunteer organization and all signature gatherers are people who truly believe this will benefit the state of California,” says Ms. Duros.

It will be a bit of a challenge. Under state law, they will have to collect signatures of 807,615 registered voters – the number equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in order to qualify it for the ballot. The signatures must be collected by June 21.


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