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California representatives ask for full state funding for higher education

Before approaching the podium to speak out against high tuition price tags, California representatives donned vintage red and white buttons, nostalgic of a tuition-free era.

Bipartisan California representatives, state university faculty and students gathered at the Governor’s News Conference Room Monday to address protecting higher education with more state funding. University faculty representatives called for a tuition freeze as a result, which would prevent the fee from rising.

Sen. Steve Glazer hosted the half-hour event, which consisted of state and college representatives speaking on the economic impact of higher education on post-college life.

Fifty-eight years ago, the Master Plan for Higher Education in California proposed free tuition to California residents applying to state community colleges and universities. Today, undergraduate students pay an average $5,742 per year at a California State University campus and $12,630 per year at a University of California campus.  

According to Sen. Bill Dodd, both the University of California and California State University campuses make up about $100 billion in state economic activity.

“The idea we are not fully investing in these institutions is somewhat puzzling to me,” Dodd said.

Speakers alluded to the California master plan that promised tuition-free education. The three-pronged plan looks to balancing quality, accessibility and affordability. However, state and university representatives alike complained the lack of state funding has spiked that commitment.

All present legislators agreed that the state should fully fund the budget requests on higher education.

Jennifer Eagan, president of the California Faculty Association, asked for the state to fund $422.6 million toward the CSUs, over $330 million more than the governor’s January budget. She said the state can help fund this through its rainy day fund.

Such a budget request would provide students with the classes they need, avoid another tuition increase and admit an additional 18,000 students who would otherwise be turned away. As the state allocation toward CSUs currently stands, Cal State Long Beach alone would have to turn away tens of thousands of eligible prospects, according to President Jane Close Conoley.

“Now is the time to make that investment in part because our students are being flooded away, washed in a sea of debt,” Eagan said. “Even worse we have students who aren’t even getting their foot in the door in the CSU.”

Enrollment growth is one factor that can net revenue across college campuses. However, providing the space for such students costs money.

Rigel Robinson, chair of external affairs at the UC Student Association, spoke on how a state expectation of enrollment to provide funding is not enough and that there isn’t enough space in classrooms to seat all students.

“The UC students are here asking for funding to buy out student services fee and tuition increases,” Robinson said. “We’re asking for funding and for the enrollment growth that has already been demanded of us, and we’re asking for funding for the enrollment growth that is currently being demanded of us.  We’re asking for funding for deferred maintenance costs, so we can take care of our crumbling campuses.”

Maggie White, president of the California State Student Association, voiced how higher education can help students succeed despite financial barriers.

“This conversation that we’re having today isn’t about schools, it’s about equity,” White said. “Everyone can have access to the things they need to climb the ladder out of poverty.”

Students on campus face similar financial problems to the ones voiced at the conference.

Maria Marchan, a third year in human resource management business, works retail and as a Lyft driver to pay for tuition. But she voiced that despite her pay, most of her funds go straight to the university.

“All my money is going toward [tuition],” Marchan said. “It’s obviously a hardship. All my money is going to that. And I have to work more so I can sustain myself financially.”

Onofre Castro, a human development fourth year, said that his accumulating student debt from the university prolongs him from owning a house.

“The bigger picture in the long run, [current tuition] affects being able to provide for a stable home,” Castro said. “I think it’s a lot especially for students who don’t have family support. Of course people want to come back to school and they’re working fathers and mothers who have a family already. Tuition can impact a family that’s already built.”

This article was updated March 16 at 4:14 p.m. The California Master Plan for Higher Education was released fifty-eight years ago.

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