Reclaim California Higher Education prescribes “$48 Fix” to cure rising tuition

Reclaim California Higher Education recently released a report that outlined how the state could balance tuition while relieving student cost. They called the solution the “The $48 Fix.”

During a press conference Jan. 24 at UC Berkeley, a coalition of California staff and students from RCHE discussed students’ struggles with rising tuition and the idea for rectifying the state budget with a plan that will restore funding to UCs and CSUs. Teachers and supporters highlighted the report that would tax California households.

The tax plan included in the report stated that median-income California households would pay $48 a year, two-thirds of state households would be charged less than $150 a year, and households in the top 5 percent of income earners will pay $7,100 a year.

Tuition could decrease through an income tax surcharge, according to Dr. Stanton Glantz, president of the Council of University of California Faculty Association. He also said the plan could repurpose Cal Grants and reallocate funds to help offset the amount students already pay.

“What’s happened since 2000 is privatization is making higher education a service to be charged rather than a public good,” Glantz said. “We’ve had a situation where students and parents have been charged more and more and getting less and less.”

The group at the press conference emphasized that it was time to stop privatization of higher education, and to quell student debt by going back to the California Master Plan for Higher Education of the 1960s.

“It’s the setting up the structure of the three-tier system of the community colleges, the California State Universities system and the University of California, and how they would all relate to each other, and how they relate to the incoming group of young adults who finished high school and go on for higher education,” said Michael Potepan, an SF State associate professor of economics.

“We still have a vestige of it,” said Michael Potepan, an SF State associate economics professor. “It’s not working now exactly the way it was originally intended.”

According to Glantz, the RCHE proposal will eliminate all tuition fees and make college free, while returning state funding and restoring the seats for students who they say were “pushed out of the system.”

The California Faculty Association president, Jennifer Eagan, highlighted the story of SF State student, Danny Alvarez, whose mother was afflicted with cancer. Alvarez is studying oncology, hoping to give back to low-income communities with his education. Eagan and others at the meeting in Berkeley agreed “The $48 Fix” could make college free.

During the conference UC Davis Student Association President Davis Ralph Washington cited the Public Policy Institute by saying they believe students borrow too much.

“I think we often discuss tuition like a commodity,” Washington said. The cost of college has made obtaining a degree “prohibitive,” according to Washington. “The true value of education is how it changes students as people.”

The University of California regents voted and approved a 2.7 percent increase in student service fees and the base price of tuition, according to an article from the Los Angeles Times.

When SF State professors were asked about what a free college education would cost, they discussed feasibility, and some talked about the idea of “free riders.” They noted that paying tuition creates a financial incentive for students to succeed and fear that free education will lead to students taking the benefit for granted.

“I don’t see why it’s a problem if you tax people,” said Phillip King, an SF State associate professor of economics. “Free rider problem is a problem when you ask people to pay for a public good which they benefit from, but there’s no mechanism to make them pay.”

King said the idea of a nominally free university education and totally free city colleges is feasible through a tax surcharge, but he was skeptical if it was politically feasible.

“We totally can do it, it’s just a matter of devoting enough resources. We have the resources, it’s just deciding to use them for that rather than other things,” said Potepan. “I don’t doubt that we can raise enough tax revenue to pay for free community colleges and relatively low cost for universities. We did it decades ago back in the 1960s.”

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