During the presidential election last year, there was a lot of talk about free or low cost college education especially from from the Democratic candidates. Bernie Sanders proposed making state colleges and universities tuition free for undergraduate education. In California, the average student loan debt per college graduate is $22,191.
Lower income students borrow more to obtain a bachelor’s degree, and Latino students drop out of school with a higher debt rate than white students. College debt can prevent young people from buying homes, cars, and even starting businesses.
Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman has introduced AB 1356, which would add a 1% tax on California household incomes of $1 million or more. This tax money would be placed in a financial aid fund and is expected to generate $2.2 billion per year. The money raised from this millionaire’s tax would be used in addition to the existing financial aid that is available to cover in state fees for students at public institutions of higher education for California residents.
In essence, Talamantes Eggman is trying to return the state to the California Master Plan for Higher Education, which reaffirmed the state’s commitment to tuition free education for state residents. It has been argued that with increasing fees (instead of ‘tuition’) that the Master Plan is dead.
“Eggman said her bill is driven by the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education, a framework adopted in 1960 that established distinct roles for each of its three public systems within a broader mission of keeping college accessible and affordable in California.
‘We have lost that dream,’ Eggman said. But while the state struggles to rein in runaway housing prices, among other issues squeezing out the middle class, this is ‘the one thing we can control.’
A year of full-time enrollment and campus fees for Californians currently averages about $13,500 at UC, $6,850 at CSU and $1,400 at a community college, though many students receive financial aid to pay for part or all of it. Those prices are more than double what they were a decade ago and, after a half-decade freeze, UC and CSU are planning tuition hikes again next year as their costs rise faster than state funding increases.
New taxes are a tough sell in the Legislature, so Eggman has made AB 1356 contingent on a ballot measure: If passed by two-thirds of both legislative houses, it would go before voters, potentially in 2018, for final approval. A recent poll found a majority of Californians believe college affordability is a major problem, and it was a motivating factor for many supporters of Democrat Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election.”
It’s being reported that momentum is building for tuition-free college education programs around the country. Many of these programs focus on the community college with many school districts partnering with their local community colleges so that students who enroll directly after high school graduation can attend the first two years of post-secondary education for free.
We applaud Assemblywoman Talamantes Eggman for being proactive to help California students by seizing upon the momentum that Bernie Sanders and others have created over the past year. We need to make higher education more accessible and affordable for our students, and we want them to graduate free from the shackles of student loan debt.
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