Daily 49er

California college tuition could be free again

Reclaim California Higher Education moves to reinstate policy from the Donahoe Higher Education Act of 1960.

Micayla Vermeeren, Editor in Chief

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Free higher education could become a reality for California students, according to a policy paper released Tuesday morning through Reclaim California Higher Education.

In order to break the ties between California colleges and privatization, the paper suggests an annual tax of no more than $48 for roughly 50 percent of California families; however, families who fall within higher tax brackets could pay more than $50,000 a year, according to California Faculty Association President Jennifer Eagan.

In 1960, the Donahoe Higher Education Act was signed into law in attempt to create a more cohesive and affordable system of higher education within the state.

The act was initially successful, but nuances were lost when financial struggles and a surge in educational privatization began changing the landscape of college progression in the early 2000’s.

“The $48 Fix,” endorsed by the CFA, University of California Students Association, Courage Campaign, and others, addresses “myths” regarding free higher education and a proposal for gathering the funds necessary to cover tuition costs.

Authors of the report gathered in Berkeley at 10 a.m. Tuesday to share the plan with members of the media that were physically present, streaming the press conference online or listening in via conference call.

“The experiment in privatization has failed,” said Stanton Glantz, President of the University of California Faculty Association and member of the report’s working group. “Higher education has gone from a public good to a commodified service.”

A chart in the report, which is available for public download on the Reclaim California Higher Education website, lists a $48 income tax for the median family, a $1,114 tax for 90th percentile families and $50,240 for the average multi-millionaire.

The average increase in taxes, across all brackets, necessary to reach the goal of prices equivalent to those in the 2000-01 school year is listed as $565.

Eagan said that the discrepancies between tax brackets are more than fair, and the millionaires will be saving more money in the long run if they end up with children who are able to attend college without tuition as a result of the taxation.

She went on to say that the equity of opportunity for students has been interrupted and that returning to the structure of the original Donahoe Act, otherwise known as the Master Plan for Higher Education, could reinstate those opportunities.

Ralph Washington, Jr., a doctoral student at UC Davis and president of the UC Student Association, bolstered Eagan by saying that the true cost of tuition are the choices students have to make when structuring their lives around education – working while taking classes, accruing student debt in the thousands, or not pursuing higher education at all.

On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents will be meeting at UC San Francisco to review the financial state of affairs. Eagan noted that there is an anticipation of protests from students against potential future fee increases at the meeting site.

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