Cal Poly students went to sleep Tuesday not knowing if Proposition 30’s outcome would bring a tuition increase or a tuition rollback come January.
Hours later, they woke up to learn it would be the latter.
It wasn’t an easy battle, but Gov. Jerry Brown’s fight for Proposition 30 ended in victory early Wednesday morning, saving public education from budget cuts that would have dealt a multi-billion dollar blow to state education if the new tax failed.
Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, who was a strong supporter of Proposition 30 leading up to Tuesday’s vote, said he was “ecstatic” when he saw positive voting numbers coming in for Proposition 30 late Tuesday night.
“What I said repeatedly to people was that Proposition 30 provides footsteps in the right direction,” Armstrong said. “It provides our first inkling of stability.”
Instead of the estimated $14.5 million cut Cal Poly would have faced if the proposition failed, a California State University (CSU) spokesperson said students will now receive financial credit on their accounts for a fee increase they began to pay this quarter. The CSU has also promised to cancel that fee in the future.
The process for rescinding tuition will differ depending on students’ status at Cal Poly, but Assistant Director of Student Financial Services Brett Holman said full-time undergraduates can expect $166 to be credited to their student accounts. Holman said for the roughly half of Cal Poly students who do not receive financial aid, the amount credited will go toward paying next quarter’s tuition.
Students with financial aid can speak with an adviser at Cal Poly’s student accounts office in order to determine how Proposition 30 will impact their tuition, Holman said.
Though the new revenue from the proposition is to be spent on K-12 schools and community colleges, CSU officials are hopeful it will free up other resources that can be allocated to higher education.
Armstrong said there are three important benefits Cal Poly gains from Proposition 30’s passage: It signals the state has decided to prioritize education at all levels across the state, it will cancel this year’s CSU tuition increase and it provides an opportunity for growth at the university.
“Higher education is a driver of California’s economic future,” he said. “The long-term benefits can only be reached if higher education is a priority of the state.”
The third benefit references an opportunity from the proposition’s passage that might allow Cal Poly to expand its in-state student admissions. The CSU has held admission numbers stagnant for three consecutive years and threatened to do so for another year if Proposition 30 failed, Armstrong said.
Despite Armstrong’s optimism about Cal Poly’s growth, the resources Proposition 30 will bring to California higher education is still unknown. The only concrete promise from the state is to help pay for most of the rescinded tuition beginning Winter 2013. The CSU will use money from its Continuing Education Revenue Fund to make up the difference.
But even this is a sharp contrast to what would have happened if Proposition 30 failed Tuesday. Brown threatened to cut billions of dollars from public services — mostly in education — through “trigger cuts” if Proposition 30 had failed. Brown said he had planned the yearly budget with revenue from his tax proposal included. If it failed, he said, there would not have been enough money to fund everything included.
“California’s general fund is at the level in relationship to our state income to where it was under Reagan,” Brown said. “We’ve cut, we’ve trimmed, we’ve squeezed. At this point, we do need revenue.”
In anticipation of these cuts, the CSU had enacted what it called a “trigger on the trigger.” If the governor’s “trigger cuts” had come down from Sacramento, the university would have immediately increased tuition by $100 per quarter, or $300 annually.
Along with approving the “trigger on the trigger” during its September meeting, the CSU Board of Trustees also chose to postpone voting on a series of fee increases until the outcome of Proposition 30 had been decided. Now that the election is over, the board will review three possible fee hikes at its meeting in Long Beach next week.
The fee proposals include tuition increases on students retaking courses, students taking more than 16 units and students who have taken more than 225 units at a quarter campus or 150 at a semester campus.
Armstrong said he plans to attend the Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach next week, and that he supports all of the fee proposals despite Proposition 30’s passage.
“I think it’s an issue of fairness,” he said of the potential fee increases. “I think it just makes good, common sense.”