CA Senate Jumps Into UC Tuition Fracas

Maybe kids and their parents won’t have to pay higher University of California tuition.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown tried to reverse UC President Janet Napolitano’s 25 percent tuition hike over five years. But she outmaneuvered him at a Board of Regents meeting.

Now the California Senate is moving to the head of the class. Senate Bill 15 is by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego. As his website explains:

“The proposal upgrades the State’s current financial aid system so it can support all California students more effectively and provide incentives for completing college within four years. The plan also proposes a higher tuition premium for non-resident UC students and a transition of the Middle Class Scholarship program.”

It was co-introduced by new Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. The tuition increase for out-of-state students would top $4,000.

Although the UC and CSU systems have expressed interest in the bill, its fate will be out of their hands. The Assembly has not yet offered any enthusiasm.

The bill was a response, according to the San Jose Mercury news, of how Napolitano “put the onus on the Legislature and the governor to repair the damage: If they came up with more money, she suggested, the tuition increases would not need to be as large.”

Ending independence

A more radical bill is Senate Constitutional Amendment 1, by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. The bipartisan bill was co-authored by Sens. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, and Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon.

SCA1 would amendment the California Constitution to take away the UC’s independence.

“The bill doesn’t list specific powers lawmakers would have over UC, where the governor-appointed regents are currently the highest authority,” the Chronicle reported. “But, under the bill, the elected officials would have the final say over any policy approved by the regents, from tuition levels to executive compensation.”

While the UC system has controlled its finances autonomously since the original California Constitution was signed in 1848, the Cal State system faces oversight from Sacramento — an arrangement seen as a model by Lara and Cannella.

As a constitutional amendment, SCA1 would need a two-thirds vote of of both houses of the Legislature to be put before voters in 2016.

Frustration

California voters have not yet weighed in on SCA1, but current polling has showcased their own frustration.

The Public Policy Institute of California found strong opposition to tuition increases and tax increases alike, with 77 percent opposing hikes that hit students, and 58 percent siding against hits to their pocketbooks.

Yet the poll also found just over half of respondents felt funding for public higher education was too low.

The desire for more spending but lower taxes and tuition will be hashed over in the Legislature, by the governor and by voters over the next several years.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com