Assemblyman Tony Thurmond hosted a “College Affordability Town Hall” at UC San Diego that was broadcast live to nearly 200,000 voters across San Diego County. The Oct. 4 town hall, which focused on the topics of college affordability, student homelessness, and food insecurity, offered the opportunity for Thurmond to speak directly to students both in San Diego and across the state.
Thurmond is a candidate for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. If elected, he will serve on the CSU Board of Trustees as well as the UC Board of Regents. He is endorsed by Senator Kamala Harris, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and the California Democratic Party. As a State Assemblymember, Tony Thurmond represents California’s 15th Assembly District in the East Bay, including the cities of Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland.
Before the town hall began, Thurmond spoke with student reporters and leaders from around the state in a virtual press conference. Addressing questions regarding financial aid, affordable housing, and the UC worker income disparity, he also announced his plan to sponsor legislation written by students statewide that will increase college affordability.
“I believe that what’s important about being a trustee and a superintendent is listening to our students, and I intend to lead and govern that way and invite students to help us find solutions and be open to student concerns,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond further expressed the need to reduce tuition cost. “I think of my own experiences,” he said, adding that his own nephew started college this year as well. “[My nephew’s] parents had to mortgage their house to send him to college — and when I think of people on my staff living in their vehicles while they were at school, I know there’s much more we can do.”
He ended the press conference with his thoughts on the conditions that some California students face.
“We have to create an environment that’s conducive to learning. When you’re worrying about where to rest your head, and when you’re worrying about what you’re going to eat, that is not conducive to learning, and I want to be able to change that together” he said.
Thurmond, panelists, and attendees at the town hall discussed the growing issue of rising tuition, inadequate financial aid, housing affordability, and food insecurity.
“The issue of homelessness on our campuses mirrors that in our communities — we are seeing a rise in homelessness,” Thurmond said during the press conference.
According to 2016 UC and CSU studies, nearly 50 percent of UC students are food insecure, and more than one in ten CSU students reported being homeless at least once in the past year. In 2015, the California Student Aid Commission stated that 43 percent of the cost of community college is allocated toward housing. Thurmond spoke on his plan to alleviate the crisis.
“I think we have to start by making the second year of community college free,” he said, noting that permanent funding sources for higher education are desperately needed in the state. “My top priority as California Superintendent will be increasing education funding to create the world-class, equitable public education system that California, as the fifth wealthiest economy in the world, can afford.”
Thurmond will be on the ballot in the upcoming election. If you are interested in voting on Nov. 6, please register to vote at https://registertovote.ca.gov/.