Budget passes, could secure tuition freeze for UC, CSU students

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The state Senate passed the final parts of the state budget Wednesday afternoon that included a tuition freeze for the UC and CSU, which means there will be no immediate tuition increases for the university systems for the 2012-13 school year if approved by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown finalized the budget when he signed it Wednesday night. However, as of press time, it remains unclear whether he approved the bill that would allocate the funds to the UC and CSU.

Full budget details will be available Thursday at 9 a.m.

The budget is largely contingent on a November ballot initiative that Californians will vote on to decide whether to increase the state’s sales taxes, ultimately creating tax brackets that would introduce higher tax rates for high-income earners in the state.

If the initiative passes, UC and CSU would receive $125 million each out of the $142.6 billion budget. But if the initiative does not pass, a series of cuts would be triggered that would translate to potential tuition increases to both systems.

The tuition freeze, seen as a buyout of higher education by Brown and the legislature, comes as relief to UC and CSU students facing 6 and 9 percent tuition increases respectively and continued fee increases throughout the years.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein confirmed that UC President Mark Yudof would not recommend tuition increases at the July UC Board of Regents meeting due to Wednesday’s budget passage, but she said the regents retain the ability to turn down the buyout and raise tuition if they choose.

UC Student Association Executive Director Matt Haney said the budget was a positive move for the UC and that it was a potential block to endless tuition increases.

“We don’t pretend this is a long term solution or that we won’t have to fight again next year, but if you compare what’s happened in past years or compare us to other services in the budget, (higher education) did pretty well,” Haney said.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Shahryar Abbasi shared the same sentiment as Haney but said work still remains to be done to secure the stability of the university’s long term future.

“First, it’s beneficial because it allows for better financial planning for families because there is no increase (in tuition),” Abbasi said. “It’s more important now than ever before to rally around the tax increase, get the vote out and organize people around the state of California to be more aware about the future of education in our state.”

Abbasi said the ASUC and Residential and Student Services Programs would continue to be organizing voter registration campaigns through the fall semester and that their goal is to register 12,000 students to vote in the city and state elections.

UC Student Association President and UC Santa Cruz senior Claudia Magana also stated in an email the importance of continued student activism to ensure the November initiative passes.

“We will have a full voter registration and education campaign in the Fall with a goal of registering over 40,000 students to vote system-wide,” Magana said in the email. “We are also urging the UC to take an official stance in support of the governor’s initiative and working with the office of the president to be granted the ability to organize directly in favor of it.

According to a June 9 field poll, 52 percent of the state supports the November initiative which would increase the state’s sales tax. UC and CSU would surely face future cuts and funding difficulties for if voters reject the initiative, according to Magana.