Assembly member proposes bills to curb education costs

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In response to rising college costs, a state Assembly member recently proposed two bills collectively named The Affordable College Act to lower the cost of California’s higher education.

State Assemblymember Dan Logue (R-Sacramento), one of the bills’ co-authors, proposed AB 181 on Jan. 25 aiming to cut the total costs of education for the university. The bill would cap the total cost of earning a bachelor’s degree at $20,000 for the UC system with the goal of enabling students to graduate within three years. Logue proposed AB 51 in December seeking to set a fixed rate for a bachelor’s degree at $10,000 for the CSU system.

The bills would establish a program that would coordinate high schools, community colleges and four-year public institutions to facilitate and cut the costs of attaining a bachelor’s degree in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. The bills also stipulate a tuition freeze for student participants during their first two academic years at a CSU or UC campus.

Students would begin the program in high school by signing up for an unlimited amount of Advanced Placement classes and would have to maintain an average grade of at least a B. Participants would then be eligible to transfer to a four-year university after earning up to 60 credits at a community college.

“There will be high standards, and they’re going to have high criteria,” Logue said. “We’re going to work with universities to define that.”

Currently, the authors are working to garner support for the legislation. If approved, the state Legislature would initiate a pilot program involving schools from all levels. Several CSU campuses, such as San Jose State University and CSU Long Beach, have already expressed interest in the program. If successful, fields outside STEM would be allowed to participate as well.

Shawn Lewis, executive director for the Berkeley College Republicans, said that he supports the bills’ “creative solutions” to the problem of college affordability but is skeptical of the program’s funding methods.

“If one thing is clear, especially after the passage of Prop 30, California is not going to be able to tax its way toward lowering the cost of public higher education,” Lewis said in an email.

Logue said one method being considered for cutting program costs is the implementation of online education.

“Online education can play a role in cutting college costs, especially as part of a hybrid or blended program, wherein traditional brick and mortar instruction is combined with online tuition,” said Jason Christopher, lecturer and director of information technology at the Goldman School of Public Policy, in an email.

Cal Berkeley Democrats President Daniel Tuchler agrees that the proposal is “unique” and opens room for discussion revolving around the rising price of a college education. However, he said he questions whether the bills would preserve the quality of education that students are receiving.

“Are we going to sacrifice quality for lower price?” Tuchler said. “That was my other biggest concern. There really hasn’t been an analysis of the economic effects, but I guess time will tell.”

Gladys Rosario covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected].