California needs to stop neglecting public education and offer more scholarships

We all know that a college workload is hard enough, but adding a job or two jobs on top of that can be nearly impossible. When higher education is the key to unlocking a promising future, every little bit helps.

That’s where scholarships come in.

But the state of California — with its education system originally designed to provide free schooling to all residents — has steadily decreased available funding to the higher learning institutions, which forces colleges and universities to raise tuition and decrease certain available scholarships, making it even harder to receive an education in a state full of impacted schools. It’s a slippery slope without a winner.

Scholarships provide endless opportunities to students who can’t afford to pay for school. They pick up the slack when loans, grants and financial aid are not enough. They allow students to attend schools offering exceptional and nationally recognized programs such as the broadcast and electronic communication arts program here at SF State and UC Davis’ veterinary program.

The ultimate virtue of scholarships is that they never have to be paid back, setting students up for the future better than anything else possibly could because, upon graduation, these students won’t have to worry about trying to pay it all back.

Ambitious, hardworking students seeking scholarships are the state’s workforce for the next generation. Why are we trying to make graduating harder for them? Tuition and living costs in California are higher than almost everywhere else in the country. The state needs to do all it can to make sure people stay here as assets to the economy.

The state budget that funds our University is not a bottomless pool of cash (see page 23) and the solution to our financial woes is not to try and siphon away funds from some other suffering institution, but to increase the supply from which we all draw.

While California’s corporate tax rates are among the highest in the nation, there are numerous tax credits and deductions that significantly diminish how much cash the state takes in. This money flows into the state’s funding of education and every time we allow breaks, we reduce the available funding. Our state is unique among oil-producing states in that we do not charge oil companies an extraction tax, a tax that nets other states hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Additionally, California charges businesses the same tax rate regardless of their size. That means that the mom-and-pop dry cleaner that pulls in $100,000 pays the same tax rate as Apple, which pulled in more than $26 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2011.
This state needs to reevaluate its present position on higher education and remember where it came from. California used to be the vanguard of this nation’s education system, but by diminishing its available educational funding not only is it making California schools harder to pay for, but it’s also making attending these institutions less attractive for future students.

Politicians and state policy makers like to flaunt their stance on the importance of education and how investing in today’s students is key to this country’s success — but this current shift in higher education funding doesn’t mirror their rhetoric.

There needs to be a new goal for the state to make college more affordable and a renewed focus on the importance on an educated populace. The cost for not doing so is just too high.