Could tuition-free college return to California?
March 20, 2017
• Legislation would tap the richest Californians to make college free for all
• “The cost of sending your kids to college has been rising faster than wages for the great majority of Californians”
California’s millionaires may be asked to part with 1 percent of their household income so state residents could go to public colleges and universities tuition-free.
The legislation to do that, AB 1356, is authored by Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton.
She says it closes the unfunded gap between existing aid programs and the cost of tuition and fees at California’s community colleges and public universities, an estimated $2 billion shortfall.
The proposed 1 percent tax on household incomes of $1,000,000 or more would provide about $2.2 billion. That revenue would then be deposited in the Higher Education Assistance Fund, created by the bill.
“The cost of sending your kids to college has been rising faster than wages for the great majority of Californians,” says Ms. Eggman, who was an associate professor at Sacramento State University before she was elected to the state Assembly. “Too many families are caught in the middle of these opposing forces, and are unable to afford college for their children without taking on massive debt.”
From 1969 to 2015, median household income has increased only 10 percent, she says, while tuition costs at the University of California increased 530 percent, and tuition and fees in the California State University system increased by 685 percent.
Ms. Eggman is joined in authoring the bill by Assembly members Rob Bonta, D-Oakland and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego.
"Every Californian deserves an opportunity to live the dream of attending college and meeting their full potential," says Mr. Bonta. “More and more, this dream is becoming out of reach for so many California students because of rising costs and the reality of being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt upon graduation. This bill will restore the tuition-free public system California successfully operated for many years.”
Ms. Weber was a faculty member and department chairman at San Diego State University for four decades. She also attended UCLA, where she received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.
“I was a product of California’s promise of affordable higher education. But the dream of many students to attend college is now hindered by the rising costs over the last few decades,” Ms. Weber says. “One of the drivers of California’s economy is our world class higher education system, we need to think affordable higher education as an investment not a luxury.”