The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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New bill offers 2008 tuition prices to future students

Assemblyman Jim Beall is attempting to pass a bill, introduced Jan. 18, 2007, that would allow Californians to buy tuition at today’s price and use it in the future, when tuition costs will most likely be higher.

AB 152 is a pre-paid tuition program in which contributors can purchase units based on the cost of attending a University of California in 2008. They can keep purchasing these units as needed at the same price regardless of tuition costs in the future.

“I’m trying to help working families,” Beall said.

Next year, the tuition for California State Universities and UCs will probably rise by 10 percent, according to Beall.

This pre-paid tuition would be put in the Scholarshare Program, a tax -exempt investment, and invested in a trust with the student’s name, creating a dividend that would be used to pay for the difference should tuition be higher when the student starts school.

If the student attends a campus that charges less than a University of California, such as a Cal State, the excess money could be used for other college-related expenses. Conversely, if the campus charges more than a UC, the student has to pay the difference out of pocket.

This pre-paid tuition program is good because the student is not hit with the cost when the time comes, said Greg Grudt, junior cinema and television arts major.

“My only concern about these plans is to make sure they’re flexible,” said Noelia Gonzalez, assistant director of financial aid and scholarships at CSUN.

This flexibility allows the money to be used at any Free Application for Federal Student Aid-approved college or university, according to the AB 152 fact sheet.

Units can be transferred from one sibling to another, Gonzalez said. The account can be closed before the student attends college, but they will be subject to tax and program penalties, with the exception of death, disability, or if the student earned a scholarship.

“In theory it’s good,” said Sarah Bisson, junior criminology major. “But you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, so why would I want to pay for something in advance?”

The money invested is not guaranteed and it can be lost due to economic downturns, stated the AB 152 fact sheet.

“If the economy tanks, the state of California will have to pay the difference,” Gonzalez said. Tax payers would also be affected as their taxes would rise if California is left with a big bill, she said.

It’s been unsuccessful in some states, Gonzalez said, referring to the state of Colorado having to cancel its pre-paid tuition program, while states including Texas, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky have stopped selling new units.

“It all comes down to careful calculations,” Gonzalez said. “They’re basing it off Washington’s pre-paid tuition program, which is very successful.”

Beall said AB 152 would also help lower classroom sizes by helping students finish college faster. He said working students take too long to get through college and by helping them get through college in four years, the bill would open up seats.

Beall’s target is not only working families and students, but also minorities.

“Tuition increase has changed the social fabric of the UC campuses,” Beall said. The UC tuition increase has reduced the number of minorities attending a UC, because families can’t afford it, he said.

“People see tuition as sustaining the fund level of schools, but don’t see the social consequences of high tuition,” Beall said.

Gonzalez disagrees, saying that the reason why there’s a low percentage of minorities isn’t the cost of tuition, but that minorities aren’t prepared for UC requirements in high school.

The Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity, released a discussion paper in October 2006 which said the UC’s eligibility requirements aren’t reaching out to minorities because their admissions requirements are too narrow.

The institute conducts research on policies and curricular innovation on racial and ethnic issues.

The report stated that UC eligibility is rigidly and narrowly defined by test scores and high school GPA, or separately by class rank.

The eligibility limits are undermining efforts at diversification at a time when underrepresented minorities are about to makeup the majority of California’s public high school graduates, according to the report.

The bill will still undergo some refining and some details must be worked out, Beall said. AB 152 has to go through a higher education committee, the senator and the governor before the bill is passed.

“He’s bringing attention to the cost of college, and families need to prepare early,” Gonzalez said in reference to Beall.

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