Bill Proposes to Help Middle Class Students in Ca.
In early May, the Public Policy Institute of California released a report stating that an increasing number of California high school graduates are foregoing the state’s UC and CSU system in favor of other private and public universities in California, and even out-of-state universities.
The report analyzes findings from 2007 to 2010. According to the figures, in 2010 less than 18 percent of California high school graduates were enrolled at Cal State or UC campuses -- in comparison to 22 percent in 2007. The PPIC report suggests that the decrease is a result of tuition hikes and state budget cuts. In an interview with the Contra Costa Times, Hans Johnson, the author of the report, also said that 1 out of 10 students who don’t accept California’s UC and CSU offers, whether for financial costs or not, do not go to college at all.
In order to keep with an ever-tightening budget, California’s state universities have had to turn away applicants who meet minimum requirements, raise requirements for impacted schools and increase tuition fees, in addition to doing away with certain classes and academic programs.
Perhaps in light of the report and reacting to the discontent among students, California lawmakers this past week introduced the “Middle Class Scholarship,” or AB 1501 in Sacramento. Introduced by Assembly Speaker John Pérez, the bill seeks to provide aid to students whose families make less than $150,000, and do no qualify for Cal Grants.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the aid would cut tuition fees for qualifying students by two-thirds. For CSU students, that would amount to $4,000, while for UC students the savings would total $8,000.
The bill has already passed in the House and will move to the Senate. However, its companion bill, one that outlines funding for providing the financial aid to middle class students, remains in dispute. That bill calls for an elimination of corporate tax breaks in order to raise approximately $1 billion a year. Whereas AB 1501 enjoyed cross-party support, this bill targeting corporations for the funds has split Sacramento back to party lines.
The second bill has not been scheduled for any deliberations or votes yet in the House. Governor Jerry Brown has lent his support but also expresses doubts over both bills being approved in the senate.
The need illustrated by the PPIC report has not gone unnoticed. Both parties agree that California must return to its reputation for high quality college education, but the issue remains one of finance and gridlock. In any case, the situation for California students is not getting any better, and solutions in Sacramento are stalwart.
Edgardo Cervano Soto is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.