Following the release of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, the ASUC Senate called for the reduction of tuition for students across the UC system in a bill passed unanimously Wednesday night.
SB 05 aims to address the pressing issue of the cost of tuition — which is currently $12,192 for UC undergraduates — and of student debt by sending ASUC representatives to lobby the UC Board of Regents and the UC Office of the President. ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai will also present the tuition concerns at the next board meeting of the University of California Student Association.
Though there are no other concrete plans as of now, the bill’s co-author and CalSERVE Senator Caitlin Quinn said she hopes to mobilize student effort and consult with other UC campuses in the near future.
Brown’s proposed fiscal budget for 2014-2015 calls for an increase in state funding by $142.2 million. Co-author and UC Berkeley sophomore Ismael Contreras said this was a good initial step, but he doesn’t feel that Brown went far enough.
“The money was allocated with the presumption that tuition will remain at its current level until at least the 2016-17 academic year, as outlined in the governor’s budget summary,” Contreras said in an email. “The idea that students must endure the burden of high tuition for another few years, despite increased state funding to the UC, is ridiculous.”
In 2012, Quinn worked with a vote coalition to register 8,571 students and Berkeley residents and to spread voter education regarding Proposition 30, a California ballot measure to increase state taxes in order to prevent cuts to the state schools’ education budget. Contreras said though the passage of Prop. 30 did bring additional revenue that helped counter some of the university’s immediate problems, he hopes SB 05 will spark larger conversation campuswide about the future of tuition.
“Students generally agree that the cost of higher education is out of control, and is becoming unaffordable,” Contreras said in an email. “However, there are some students that believe that tuition is something that is decided at a level above students. This is an incorrect assumption to make.”
Additionally, the bill referenced research conducted by the Project on Student Debt, which concludes that 52 percent of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in California in 2012 had an average student debt of $20,269.
Despite the passage of SB 05, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein does not anticipate a tuition reduction in the near future. Rather, she said — as UC President Janet Napolitano has — that tuition will remain frozen as the university continues to look at many options in the aftermath of budget cuts.
“(Napolitano) has a tuition initiative looking for a new model so that students and their families could have predictability about budgeting and costs of tuition,” Klein said. “(The university) is looking at many options, and the top priority of the president is to have tuition remain affordable.”