Tuition Waits On Voters

Marlon Castillo/New University

This fall, Californians must vote to pass legislation that will increase taxes in order to prevent tuition costs from rising for the University of California and California State campuses.

The prospective tax will raise the sales tax price a quarter percent and raise taxes on households that make more than $250,000 a year.

Addressing the issue of tuition hikes is one of the major bills from Governor Jerry Brown’s office concerning the California public education system. Governor Brown’s AB 1502  bill offers an incentive of $125 million that will go to each UC and Cal State system if the schools keep tuition at 2011-2012 levels. Anticipating the planned $125 million and a series of prearranged cuts, UC President Mark G. Yudof has decided not to ask the UC Regents for the tuition hike.

However, if the bill does not pass, the schools will lose the $125 million as well as  an additional $250 million in cuts. As a result, if the tax measures on the budget bill do not pass in November, the schools face the prospect of raising tuition during the middle of the academic year.

The Budget Act of 2012, which outlined the allocation of Californian state funds for the fiscal year, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on June 27. The state budget carried 21 budget bills that had to be voted on by midnight of June 27. Now, the state voters will have to pass it in November to approve the various measures.

UC President Mark Yudof said in a statement on June 28 that he would ask the UC Regents not to raise tuition for the upcoming year. The UC Regents plan to meet in mid-July in order to raise the tuition 6 percent, tacking on an additional $732 per year. This 6 percent increase would raise annual undergraduate tuition for the UC campuses to $12,924 minus room and board. The regents meeting, which has been moved, will now take the state budget into heavy regard. It is both the wish of President Yudof and UC regents Chairwoman Sherry Lansing that tuition not increase for the undergraduate students in the UC system.

“We will not recommend a tuition increase. We will recommend we take the deal,” said spokeswoman Dianne Klein on behalf of Yudof.

Unfortunately for the Cal State system, the situation is more complicated. The system’s trustees already agreed to a 9 percent tuition increase last November. This would add $498 annually to undergraduate students making total tuition $5,970, not including housing and books and other expenses.

Since the state budget aims to overturn all tuition hikes, the Cal State system is waiting to make their next decision.

What makes the Cal State circumstances complex is that they have already begun to collect the raised tuition fees from students. Their tuition increase raises the schools to $132 million, $7 million more than the $125 million they would receive from the tax increase.

Cal State spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said that the Cal State system will continue to collect money from their students until the results from the November vote are released. If the tax measure passes this fall, students will be refunded their money. If the legislation does not pass, however, the tuition hike will remain the same.

The Cal State trustees will establish a more definite plan in a meeting also scheduled for mid-July.

Spokeswoman Dianne Klein said that waiting for the legislation to pass in November is a risk but is indeed a chance worth taking.

The UC Regents will ultimately make the final decision on tuition fees, but Klein and Yudof will have a weighted opinion. It does not seem likely that the Regents will overlook both Yudof and the legislative leader’s decision and risk student protests.

Governor Brown stated that voters would be more inclined to pass the bill to raise taxes to support the UC and Cal State systems if there were no tuition increases.

The California community colleges are also facing fee hikes. What was once a $36 per unit fee is now at $46. Regardless of the state budget agreement, the community college fee increase will remain.

However, if the measure passes, the community colleges will have the freedom to offer more courses in the spring with the $213 million the 112 schools will receive. In addition, the community colleges will receive $50 million to increase enrollment.

In addition to the tax increases, California voters will also be voting on a petition to provide middle class income students with financial support through the Middle Class Scholarship Act. If this petition passes, students with family incomes less than $150,000 will have two-thirds of their tuition fees covered.

According to the petition, around 42,000 UC students will save up to $8,169 individually per year and about 150,000 students at CSU’s will save over $4,000 a year.

The money for the Middle Class Scholarship will come from closing a corporate tax loophole and generate a projected $1 billion.

Voters will be able to vote on Governor Brown’s budget bills, which include the new tax measures, along with the Middle Class Scholarship Act and the bill to close the corporate tax loophole.