It’s no secret that the government is attacking the higher education system in California with budget cuts and penalty fees. Last month, students at UC Riverside released a proposal to fix the education crisis; students would attend University of California schools with no upfront charges and upon employment after graduation, they would pay 5 percent of their income for 20 years.
This radical idea may be students’ only hope. For the past several years, students have peaceably protested up and down the state, hoping for someone to lend a sympathetic ear and a helping hand.
Nothing has happened though – except to turn the responsibility over to voters in November. If Proposition 98, which “temporarily increases the personal income tax on the state’s wealthiest taxpayers and temporarily increases the sales tax by one half percent,” does not pass, an additional $5.2 billion will be cut from public education funding, including $200 million from each public university system.
The proposal’s authors, a student organization called Fix UC, might be called foolish or idealistic for coming up with this plan. Critics say they have too many potential logistical and political problems. Some say it is too far-fetched to think that anything good can come out of relying on money in the future with an unstable economy.
Fortunately, the students behind the proposal covered most of their bases. Currently, 57 percent of UC students rely on their “Blue and Gold” plan, which covers students’ tuition through scholarships and grants. Students using this plan do not have to repay the money. The repayment method of the Fix UC proposal would be similar to that of a loan, with paperwork to ensure students repay the 5 percent.
The Fix UC proposal will put the priority back on education. It is an investment in students and their future. Not only does it build confidence in students that they are valued members of society, but it gives them the incentive to work harder in school because they are an investment. The universities will also have the incentive to use their alumni network to employ recent graduates in higher paying jobs. This will generate higher revenue for the UCs.
Critics say there are many questions left unanswered by the initial proposal. They want to know how the UCs will track students and alumni to collect payments, what counts as income and how they will fill any loopholes generated by the government through taxes and funding.
Currently, UC system President Mark Yudof said his “best number crunchers” are overlooking the proposal to answer these questions. The students who have created this proposal included a data sheet with the numbers they figured. Thought went into this proposal – it is not just an idea tossed around.
Fix UC proposes starting this plan with incoming freshman who will be receiving Blue and Gold aid. These students do not usually pay up front and money is already allocated for them. After their graduation, they will begin repayments.
The picture painted is a pretty one – students will go through their four years of university focusing on their studies, instead of finding money to fund school, and after graduation will fall into decent-paying positions for 22-year-old students. They will begin to pay 5 percent of their income, funding the next group of students.
At first, this investment might seem like a risk, as many investments do. However, investing in education through a delayed payment plan along with strong support from alumni can only lead to a profitable investment.
It’s an investment that someone needs to take. Without higher education in this century, a good paying job is a needle in a haystack at best. Without higher education the positions that are currently filled with baby boomers are soon going to find themselves without a qualified prospect.
Sorry, governor, but you and your colleagues cannot run California forever; higher education is the one investment that should never be skimped on.