Ryan Chartrand

Cal Poly tuition rates rose 7 percent for all majors this year from 2006-07. Over the past six years at UC and CSU campuses, tuition has nearly doubled.

With the looming tuition crisis falling upon California, action has spurred among college students to file the first student-led ballot initiative with the California attorney general and, if qualified, it will be put on the Nov. 2008 ballot.

The initiative calls for a five-year tuition freeze for resident undergraduates in both UC and CSU systems. After the fifth year, future tuition increases would have to follow along with inflation index.

The group Students and Families for Tuition Relief Now started the process for the initiative a year ago with students in the Bay Area.

“This last summer the movement truly crystallized as a clear organization,” said Jeremy Bearer-Friend, one of the group’s lead organizers.

“This campaign is unlike any other – we are not paying for signatures; we are showing students coordinating and being organized. Really, the goal is for students to flex their muscles.”

The group is leading the proposition along with organizing on many public campuses across the state to push its proposal. They are hoping to collect 434,000 signatures from early January through April while encouraging young voters to make it to the polls in November 2008.

“Students at each campus in California are getting involved and we want more students,” said campaign director Chris Vaeth.

“We have a lot of signatures to accomplish but there are 650,000 students on UC and Cal State campuses that can sign and also parents, faculty and any registered California voters.”

Students and Families for Tuition Relief Now has infrastructure support from Greenlining Action, a nonprofit public policy organization impacting low-income communities. The organization took on this initiative because it felt college students need this freeze.

“College students are struggling, especially with textbook, credit cards, and student loan companies taking advantage of them,” Vaeth said. “We want to stop attacks on affordability.

“There is a need for an educated workforce. Silicon Valley is in San Jose because of the education of graduates who enter the field but it may be any day now where there will be less and less college graduates due to the lack of affordability.”

Another factor in the proposed law will create new revenue specifically for the cost of educating UC and CSU students through a 1-percent tax on individuals who make more than $1 million.

Administrators from both systems would be accountable by law to report to a citizens’ panel of students and parents on where the funds would be spent.

“This will generate new money for the students and costs of education,” Vaeth said.

“This means that it could be used on higher wages for faculty, improved libraries or even textbook support.”

Last week Lt. Gov. John Garamendi called for a cap on student fees while the UC Regents and CSU Board of Trustees approved a 2008-09 budget that could raise student fees 10 percent if the state does not provide funds needed.

“When there are budget deficits the first stop is students. It does not make sense – it is a public institution and the vast majority of Californians want affordability,” Bearer-Friend said.

Students and members of the community who are interested are encouraged to visit tuitionreliefnow.com for more information on how to get involved.

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