Lawmakers too often ignore the middle class. You know: the hardworking families who pay their taxes, follow the rules, and who neither hire high-priced lobbyists nor attend noisy protests. California’s public universities and community colleges were once affordable for the middle class. With a relatively low cost, California's families were given the opportunity to have a world-class education.
But thanks to the national recession and chronic budget shortfalls, fees have risen dramatically over the last decade. While low-income students could rely on Cal Grants and Pell Grants, and some on the opposite end of the spectrum can shrug off increases without a care, the middle class bears the brunt of these higher costs. Ineligible for grants, they are forced to pay ever-increasing fees.
Ineligible for grants, they are forced to pay ever-increasing fees.
Since the 2003-2004 school year, California State University (CSU) student fees have increased by 191%, from $2,046 to $5,970, and fees at the University of California (UC) have increased by 145%, from $4,984 to $12,192.
To keep college affordable for all Californians, I co-authored Assembly Bills (AB) 1500 and 1501, which create the Middle Class Scholarship, a program that will cut UC and CSU fees by two-thirds. Under the proposal, approximately 150,000 CSU students will save over $4,000 per year, while about 42,000 UC students will save up to $8,169 per year. Additionally, community colleges will receive $150 million to expand affordability efforts. And all of this will be done without raising taxes or fees on California residents or businesses.
How is this possible? The program is funded by closing a tax loophole that currently allows multi-national and out-of-state corporations to be rewarded for outsourcing jobs. This loophole allows them to choose to pay taxes based on how many people they employ in California. Yes, I know. It's hard to believe that such a law is even on the books. As it stands, we actually reward certain entities for shipping jobs overseas or out of state. Closing this loophole would put California policy in line with 23 other states, such as Texas and Arizona.
The Middle Class Scholarship is a win-win for California because it cleans up a senseless loophole, while helping middle-class families pay for a decent education. I promised to undertake this kind of tax reform while running, and I am always mindful too, of the great education I was able to get at our public universities. If you, or the students in your family want more information on the proposals, please visit my website at http://asm.ca.gov/gatto.