There’s a difference between theory and reality.
In theory, UC Irvine alumnus Chris Campbell’s plan to freeze undergraduate public college tuition at first-year rates is good.
The California Constitutional Amendment ballot initiative, authored by the 2011 Irvine graduate, is still in the initial stages of the signature process to qualify for the statewide November ballot. Its aims are undoubtedly positive, as the initiative’s goal is to give students financial certainty in uncertain times.
But in reality, the plan won’t work, and could very well do more harm than good.
Yes, it would be nice for students to know exactly how much they will be paying each year for college when they enroll. But the initiative is unfair and not viable. Mostly, though, freezing tuition does not address the real problem: the state government.
Tuition rates have gone up exponentially in the past few years, while state funding has gone down. Last year, the state cut $650 million each for both the UC and CSU systems. The total amount of tuition UC students are paying has already surpassed state funding.
Freezing tuition at rates students pay upon enrollment punishes future generations of students. The plan would not give universities a whole lot of flexibility in figuring out how to meet demands when they can’t touch tuition. Campuses need to be able to look at everything, especially when we can’t count on consistent and substantial state contributions. Who knows, if tuition is frozen, schools might have to compensate by cutting programs and services on campuses, which could end up being far worse than a fee hike.
The constitutional amendment would alienate classes, separating students by their year. For instance, one class might not have reason to speak up — unlike the following class or two, perhaps paying substantially higher tuition. There is power in numbers, and a protest that does not represent all students would be far less effective.
The plan also has a detrimental effect on transfer students, who would be less inclined to transfer for what would likely be a higher tuition as a new student. This would not just impact a few people; about one-third of college students transfer at some point. In addition, the number of out-of-state and international students, which has already reached epic proportions in the UC system, would almost certainly continue to surge upward.
Campbell’s intent is good, but this is not the solution.
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