California Lawmakers Proposes College Free Tuition [VIDEO]By Anne Collins, UniversityHerald Reporter
In an effort to address the soaring cost of higher education, some California Democrats had proposed to tax millionaires to provide free education for residents at the state's public colleges and universities. Assembly Bill 1356, by Susan Talamantes Eggman, would add a 1 percent tax on annual California household incomes of more than $1 million.
The tax would generate an estimated $2.2 billion annually and once combined with existing aid programs, it can cover tuition and fees for in-state students at the University of California, California State University and California community colleges. Eggman said that her bill aims to keep college accessible and more affordable in California.
The Sacramento Bee reported that California averages about $13,500 at UC, $6,850 at CSU and $1,400 at a community college for full-time enrollment and campus fees. The prices are more than double of what they were a decade ago.
UC and CSU are planning tuition hikes next year and as their costs raise the state funding increases as well. If AB 1356 passed by two-thirds of both legislative houses, it would go before voters for final approval, potentially by 2018. It aims to make college debt-free for students by covering non-tuition related expenses and expanding aid for community college students.
Student debt is excessive, but providing more aid is the wrong approach according to Republican lawmakers. Assemblyman Rocky Chávez of Oceanside said that it would be better to reduce the inefficiencies that prevent students from finishing than throw more money at universities' problems. Chavez expressed his doubts on how the bill will ensure that the students who will be given free education to graduate in four years.
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley said the proposed tax increase would do more harm to the students by driving away businesses, jobs, and capital and the economic opportunities that would be made available to them once they graduate.
According to CBS Local, 1.5 percent of wealthy Californians generates roughly half of the state's income tax revenue. In 2004, California voters approved a 1 percent tax on people earning more than $1 million annually to fund mental health programs.