Panel of experts presents report on tuition-free public higher education in CA

Emilia Bulfone/Staff

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A panel of experts convened Tuesday in Berkeley to unveil a policy paper affirming the possibility of restoring tuition-free public higher education in California.

The panel was organized by the Reclaim CA Higher Education Coalition, an organization of students, staff, faculty and community groups dedicated to restoring the Donahoe Higher Education Act, according to Amy Hines-Shaikh, the coalition’s director. The Donahoe Act reaffirmed California’s longtime commitment to tuition-free education for in-state students.

The policy paper, titled “The $48 fix: Reclaiming California Master Plan for Higher Education,” calls for the implementation of an annual eight percent income tax surcharge that would cost median-income California families $48 per year and households in the top five percent an approximate $7,100 per year. Millionaires would be required to pay about $50,000, according to Stanton Glantz, president of the Council of UC Faculty Associations and a member of the working group that prepared the paper.

“We recognize … that it costs money to offer higher education,” Glantz said at the panel. “One of the things which I think is different between the report we’ve written and several others that have been floating around is, unlike the others, we actually have real numbers in our report and real data, rather than a bunch of political rhetoric.”

The policy aims to fully fund projected enrollment and eliminate tuition in all 10 UC campuses, all 23 CSU campuses and the hundreds of California Community Colleges. On Thursday, however, the UC Board of Regents will vote on a new operating budget plan that includes tuition hikes for in-state and out-of-state students.

If approved, the new budget plan will increase in-state tuition by $282, the Student Services fee by $54 and undergraduate out-of-state tuition by $1,332, and it will generate a total of $465.2 million in increased revenue for the university.

“We would all love for tuition never to be raised again,” said UC President Janet Napolitano in a Jan. 6 interview. “That would require the state to put in substantially more money. … Without a substantial input of more money from the state, tuition becomes a last resort.”

David McCleary, a UC Berkeley alumnus and the president of UAW Local 2865 — the union that represents 16,000 UC student workers — attended the panel Tuesday in support of the Reclaim CA Higher Education Coalition’s efforts. McCleary said he sees public higher education as essential to the economy of the state and added that he believes the coalition’s plan for tuition-free campuses is comprehensive and feasible.

“(Education) is a public good, paid for with public tax dollars of all the constituents of California, and it needs to reflect those constituencies,” McCleary said.

Harini Shyamsundar is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.