Tuition freeze could cap UC, CSU costs at 2011-2012 academic year’s price

Jason Gallaher

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Students support the joint efforts of three California State Assembly members to freeze tuition throughout the UC and CSU systems.

Assembly Bill 67, authored by Assembly members Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto), Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside) and Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) would freeze tuition at the rate of the 2011-2012 academic year if there is an increase in funding to UC and CSU schools by 5 percent in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic years.

There would also be a 4 percent increase in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years.

Many students support the tuition freeze, as the rising cost of tuition has caused them to worry about paying for college.

“I’m running out of financial aid money and I don’t make enough at my two jobs,” said Brian Escobar, 21, junior sociology major. “This would be good for me so I’d know how much I need to save for school.”

Others said the tuition freeze and increase in budget would focus state tax dollars to education as opposed to areas they see as a lesser concern.

“When they raise (tuition) in general, it’s unfair,” said Kimberly Hernandez, 18, freshman psychology major. “I find it unfair that (so much) money is put in incarceration projects instead of schooling.”

Gorell said in a statement that rising tuition costs are often the result of reduced state funding to schools.

“We’ve balanced the budgets of the universities over the past decade by tripling the tuition and fees students pay,” he said.

Olsen said this bill will help guarantee funding that was set aside for education purposes to be given to educational institutions.

“Voters were promised that the passage of Proposition 30 would mean more funds for education, including college students,” Olsen said. “It’s important to pass AB 67 now so that students and families are guaranteed a stable tuition rate and so state government is held accountable to using Prop 30 funds for our students and public university system.”

According to CSUN’s financial aid and scholarships department, CSUN tuition for the 2012-2013 school year is $3,252, and is expected to rise only $8 for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Olsen, Chávez, and Gorell each put forward their own tuition freeze bills earlier in the year. The three politicians came together in early April to co-author AB 67 instead of having three competing bills that all had the same general goal.

In Chávez’s original bill, AB 159, a tuition freeze was proposed for first year students for six years.

This provision would have created added complexity for the CSUN financial aid and scholarship department.

“One of the things (AB 159 would have done) is add complexity to explaining why we are paying different financial aid amounts to students who are taking the same amount of classes,” said Lili Vidal, director of financial aid and scholarships. “Their cost of attendance includes tuition and those different costs would make them eligible for different amounts of money.”

This concern is addressed in AB 67 as tuition rates would be frozen for all students, regardless of their year in school.

The bill has passed unanimously in the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee. It is now being reviewed by the Appropriations Committee.

Olsen sees this as a potential problem for getting the bill passed.

“The biggest obstacle to AB 67 will be getting it through the Appropriations Committee because the bill requires the state to increase funding for our CSUs and UCs,” Olsen said.

An analysis of AB 67 prepared by Chuck Nicol, an Assembly Appropriations Committee consultant, challenged the rational of a tuition freeze being enacted for students to be able to plan their finances.

“A fee policy allowing for modest increases (in tuition) would still be predictable and would allow families to plan for their college expenses,” the analysis read.

Nicol further argues that small tuition increases can have direct benefits for students.

“(Given) the impact of recent budget reductions, in reduced class offerings for example, the state and students could benefit from a modest increase if the additional revenues were to provide direct services that allowed more students to get the courses they need,” Nicol said in the analysis.

Olsen hopes California residents who support the tuition freeze will take action to let their voices be heard.

“I urge everyone to call the members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and encourage them to pass the bill to help college students,” she said.