A state bill that would make California public and community colleges tuition-free for in-state students was introduced Monday.
The bill was announced by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and was co-authored by Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego. If approved, Assembly Bill 1356 would enforce a 1 percent tax on households with incomes of $1 million or higher, according to a press release issued Monday by Eggman. The press release added that this tax revenue would be accumulated in a Higher Education Assistance Fund and that the bill intends to supplement existing aid programs instead of replacing them.
“The cost of sending your kids to college has been rising faster than wages for the great majority of Californians,” Eggman said in the press release. “Too many families … are unable to afford college for their children without taking on massive debt.”
ASUC Senator Anthony Carrasco, who identifies as a low-income first-generation student, said he is strongly for the bill because it will promote an expansion of opportunity.
According to Carrasco, much of the debt that has accumulated among UC Berkeley students is related to paying off living costs. Carrasco said he believes that if this bill passes, UC Berkeley students, specifically in-state students, would see not only a tuition-free campus but also a campus with less housing and food insecurity.
“If (the bill) goes through, after graduation maybe students would have more of a likelihood to leave the Bay Area,” Carrasco said. “Sometimes, students here can’t go across the state or try (a) new job because of the debt burden that they have.”
Campus freshman Megha Torpunuri said in an email that she agreed with the principles behind AB 1356. She added that although the entire basis of public colleges is to ensure that higher education is accessible, she believes students have been “increasingly getting priced out of college.”
Others, however, have expressed contrary viewpoints regarding the feasibility and potential impact of the bill. Campus freshman Yusheng Xia said in an email that he believes AB 1356 would not have a positive impact because it may result in students putting less effort into their education.
“By taking away student investment into their own education and future, you are removing their motivation to achieve and gain the full extent of what they are capable of,” Xia said in his email.
David Leveille, a former visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education, also said he believes that the bill is not practical.
“While the motivation may be appropriate (and) well-intentioned … where’s the commitment and the responsibility of the legislature to fund higher education the way it should be funded?” Leveille said. “There has been a defunding of state support toward the institutions of higher education.”