California Education Cuts Carelessly Target the Middle Class

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Governor Jerry Brown has announced that California’s budget deficit is back for the first time since 2012, and by summer 2018 the debt is expected to reach $2 billion. Since income tax sources are lower than projected, Brown plans to cut a whopping $3.2 billion from state education funds. By cutting out Middle Class Scholarship grants from the UC system, students coming from households making $80,000 to $156,000 per year will be ineligible for up to $4,000 a year in grants.

After a three year UC tuition freeze, the cost of tuition will also start to increase. Although our school is greatly lacking the proper infrastructure it needs to provide for its growing number of students, UC president Janet Napolitano states that extra funds will be used to invest in more faculty and improving mental health support.

The budget cuts to education are very disappointing, as attending college is already a struggle in and of itself. The cost of tuition to attend a UC is outrageous at more than $12,000, and a majority of students have no other option but to supplement their inadequate financial aid with government loans. Governor Brown’s decision to cut scholarships is concerning, because the lack of financial aid support creates further strain on the already disappearing middle class.

The struggling middle class is a direct reflection of gross income inequality among Americans. The median income for middle class families is shrinking. As more income is distributed to the upper one percent, the poverty which plagues the lower class grows. As a consequence, middle class families are becoming unable to keep up with high university costs.

No matter what social class a student’s family occupies, every student deserves an equal chance to attend college. Alas, the good old days of the 1970s when 32 percent of UC tuition was funded by the state and tuition was a mere $600 are long gone. Unfortunately, we are moving farther and farther from receiving state funding, and according to a December 2014 article in UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, “tuition is now ‘the largest single source of core operating funds.’ Students contribute nearly $3 billion in tuition and fees, versus the $2.38 billion the state contributes.” The state should be making it a priority to contribute more of the budget to education so that the monetary burden does not fall so heavily on students. The state should be invested in protecting and bettering education, not perpetrating a war against it.

There has to be other places where the budget can be cut, rather than destroying education funds. According to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, California spends about $25 billion per year “providing education, health care, law enforcement, and social and government services to illegal aliens.” In the face of a Trump administration which has pledged to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records, California has retaliated by increasing the number of “sanctuary cities,” which make it difficult to conduct immigration enforcement. Deportation is described as inhumane by many, but spending billions of dollars to keep immigrants protected should not be more of a priority than properly funding education for California citizens.

Immigration is just one drop in the bucket of where California squanders budget money. Whether it be spending more than we have to expand the Medi-cal budget or just fraud and waste, the bottom line is that money should not discourage students from attending the college of their dreams. All students deserve an equal chance to receive an education no matter their parents’ tax bracket. If college cannot be made more affordable, it is crucial that grants should be available to students of all social classes.

College is an important investment in our country’s future, and the chance to attend college should not be restricted to the upper class. Instead of trying to squeeze blood from turnips by hiking tuition and creating more student debt, the simple answer for Jerry Brown is to stop spending what we do not have.

Emilia Williamson is a second-year Literary Journalism major. She can be reached at eewillia@uci.edu.

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