Tuition freeze for UC, CSU included in state budget to be voted on Wednesday

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Efforts from State Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and student associations secured a tuition freeze for both UC and CSU systems contingent upon a Wednesday vote in the state Legislature and approval by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The provision in the pending state budget would add $120 million in funds each to the UC and CSU, according to John Vigna, Perez’s press secretary. If the provision is passed as part of the budget, tuition will not increase by 6 percent for UC students and 9 percent for CSU students for the 2012-13 academic year.

Vigna said that rising tuitions were a priority for Perez — author of the recent California Middle Class Scholarship Act — and that the provision will be included in the higher education portion of the budget Wednesday.

“Cuts every time for UCs and CSUs means more people can’t go into or afford (education),” Vigna said. “We look at the fee increases as a major problem for economic recovery. If folks don’t get to school, that’s an untapped resource for the economy … We can’t keep making college inaccessible for Californians and expect to have the same level of economy.”

Matt Haney, executive director of UC Student Association, said the organization worked with Perez in advocating the tuition freeze, and it received a call Sunday saying the speaker’s office was confident that Perez has agreement from Brown to give final approval for the higher education budget.

“We have been working very heavily over the past few weeks in contact with the speaker’s office, and I got a call on Sunday from his office that the speaker was successful in getting the buyout language,” Haney said. “(Perez) has been our biggest advocate in this process in Cal Grants and the tuition freeze … (Perez) made it clear that higher education was a top priority for him.”

However, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the university has not seen any specific language for the tuition buyout yet and that the possibility of a tuition freeze is highly contingent on the approval of the governor’s tax initiative on the November ballot.

“The truth is the situation is very fluid, and the Department of Finance and Vice President Patrick Lenz have been meeting a lot, including last evening,” Klein said. “We haven’t seen any specific language. There are several proposals, most having to do with the November tax increases.”

Claudia Magana, UC Student Association president and UC Santa Cruz senior, said this is still a huge success because this could be the first time in years that UC and CSU systems will not face tuition increases.

“It is important because every year we have been getting increases,” Magana said. “We have been putting pressures on legislators and lobbied with the regents to ask them to buy out the increase. This is a huge success. The next step would be to make sure the initiative passes.”

Currently, student leaders from the UCSA and student unions are still urging students to call in and push California legislators to make sure the tuition freeze stays in the state budget.

“I think this shows that student activism in the late year is making a huge difference,” said Charlie Eaton, financial secretary of UAW Local 2865, which represents nearly 12,000 graduate student instructors, readers and tutors teaching on UC campuses. “We need to keep organizing to make sure this tuition freeze goes into effect and roll tuition back.”