State Republicans take a Symbolic Stand on Ensuring Prop 30 Funds go to Higher Education

Yousuf Fahimuddin,
Politics Editor

Republicans in the State Legislature introduced a bill last Monday that would prohibit the increase of tuition at all CSU, UC, and community college campuses throughout the state for the next seven years. This ban would assure that revenue raised from the passage of Prop 30 is used effectively in funding college campuses.

Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, author of the bill, said that as a college professor he has seen personally how difficult it has been for students to be able to afford college. State Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, introduced an identical bill in the State Senate.

“The cost of a public university education has almost doubled over the last five years. It’s essential that the Legislature act now to secure these dollars for higher education and prevent further tuition hikes. Our legislation will dedicate these dollars as the voters intended – to our students,” Gorell said.

State Democrats have been quiet about the new bill.

While it is likely that Democrats will support the Governor’s budget proposal, it’s not likely they will form a coalition with the Republicans because of the Democratic supermajority in the State Senate and Assembly, which allows Democrats to pass legislation without a single vote from Republicans. Until the proposal goes to committee in May, it’s unlikely that Democratic legislators will endorse specific portions of his plan, such as the tuition freeze, because these provisions are not final.

Assembly Minority Leader, Connie Conway, R-Tulare, said the Republicans had not heard much from Democrats since the bill was introduced, but was hopeful it would be passed.

“Many voters supported Prop 30 under the impression that education, specifically higher education, would be protected from future tuition increases,” Conway said. “So this legislation just adds to the guarantee that this will actually happen.”

Gov. Jerry Brown last Thursday unveiled his budget proposal for the 2013-14 fiscal year. In his plan, $250 million each will be allotted to the CSU and the UC system. The Governor is also proposing a tuition freeze similar to the plan State Republicans have proposed in the legislature, the only difference being that his plan would last only four years. Both proposals seek to ensure that the money from Prop 30 goes to education.

The Governor has not formally taken a position on the Republican legislation, but his Press Secretary Gil Duran said simply that, “Proposition 30 prevented billions of dollars in drastic cuts to California’s colleges and universities. These Republicans campaigned against it.”

Since the 2007-08 fiscal year, tuition has nearly doubled at the CSU and the UC. To counterbalance this, financial aid grants have also more than doubled in that same period.

“That has been a deliberate move by the CSU system and the board of trustees, to every time we do a tuition increase, provide for an increase in financial aid,” said Erik Fallis, Media Relations Specialist for the CSU Board of Trustees. “And that’s something that the state of California in some of their reporting recently, on their budget they’ve listed that as an expenditure of revenue, where we actually see it as neither, we see it as money that belongs to the students as financial aid.”

The Board of Trustees has not had a chance to meet since the introduction of the Republican bill and the Governor’s budget proposal, and hasn’t taken a position on either plan.

Although Fallis did say of the proposal that the proposal “stops the bleeding,” and that, “we appreciate it and we are cautiously optimistic that there will be a beginning of reinvestment in higher education as indicated in the governor’s proposal,” but that he can’t say anything definitive on what the state of education will look like next year.

The percentage of students enrolled in public universities and colleges who have their tuition fully paid by grants and waivers increased from one-third in 2007 to half at the present,

according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Financial aid grants, both federal and private, have more than doubled in that same time period, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reports.

Yet, California’s higher education system is among the most affordable in the nation.

Community Colleges students in California pay the lowest per-unit fee in the country, the CSU system cheaper than “14 of its 15 public university peers,” and the UC system is slightly above the average of its four comparison public research universities,” according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Loma Rica, introduced legislation last December for a pilot program that would allow high school students the ability to earn a bachelors degree for less than $10,000, including the cost of textbooks, if they have earned up to 60 semester units from either AP credit or from community colleges. This plan would provide students with a streamlined path going from high school, to community college, to a CSU.