An assembly bill proposed Jan. 7 would prohibit tuition increases for California higher education institutions during the next seven years.
Assembly Bill 67 (AB 67) would cover schools in the California State University (CSU), University of California (UC) and California Community Colleges systems. The bill states that because of increased revenue in the system with the passing of Proposition 30 in November, tuition and fee increases should be unnecessary and therefore prohibited.
The bill dictates that tuition and fees in any of these higher education systems could not increase beyond the rates from the 2011-12 academic year and that this freeze would stay in effect until 2018, which is the same time period in which the taxes set in place by Proposition 30 stay in effect. It is classified as an urgency statute and would therefore go into effect immediately after passing.
AB 67 was introduced by Republican Assembly Member Jeff Gorell and is backed by the Assembly Republican Caucus. Republican Caucus communications director Sabrina Lockhart said its purpose is to ensure the promises made in the marketing of Proposition 30 are carried out.
“The campaign for Prop 30 was that students would be protected if the tax increases passed,” Lockhart said. “This measure simply ensures that those promises to students and families are kept.”
Now that the bill has been introduced, the next step is for it to be reviewed by a number of committees, including the Higher Education Committee. After review, it will advance to the assembly floor; and if it passes, the process will repeat in the California State Senate. Lockhart said the decision will hopefully be made by the end of the legislative year in September.
Assembly Republicans and Democrats are at odds over some aspects of the bill, namely the issue of where the money would come from.
“The bill language doesn’t specify how it’s getting paid for,” press secretary for the State Assembly Speaker John Vigna said. “The worst thing would be to get people’s hopes up and then not be able to pay for anything.”
The bill does specifically reference Proposition 30, pointing out the fact that it is meant to provide funds for elementary and high schools. According to Lockhart, AB 67 would simply hold the government accountable for its additional promises that the proposition would benefit higher education.
“There’s no provision in Proposition 30 that protects this new revenue for higher education,” Lockhart said. “Prop 30 had specific language for elementary schools and high schools, and we’re seeking similar protection for higher education.”
Vigna acknowledged that though these contradictions exist, the bill is in its early stages and has room for discussion.
“This is going to be one of the issues that the legislature will spend a lot of time on this year,” Vigna said. “The positive thing is that we’re having this discussion about how to make college accessible for every Californian. But if we’re going to do that, we have to find a way to pay for it.”
What can be agreed upon is something of this nature is necessary to aid California higher education.
“It’s become a huge problem, especially for middle class families, but also for all of California,” Vigna said of the recent increases in tuition and fees. “This is a very critical issue and it should be a bipartisan issue.”
For Cal Poly students, this means tuition and fees would return to the rates of the 2011-12 academic year and remain that way until 2018. CSU Media Relations Specialist Erik Fallis said although this issue is of cruicial importance, the bill has not yet been reviewed by the CSU.
“We’ll take time to look at that bill and the others that have come out to get an analysis of them,” Fallis said. “That analysis hasn’t happened yet so we don’t have a position on that bill.”
Fallis said although no stance has been taken yet by the CSU, the proposal of this bill seems to be a promising step in the direction of providing more funding to California higher education.
“The cause of increased tuition is a decrease in state support,” Fallis said. “What we have seen is that the state has not been contributing at the same level per student as it has in the past. We fortunately have seen the beginnings of reinvestment, which does not address all of the needs but will certainly be something.”