FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

College for All: a California Trend Worth Catching

by

California can be an annoyingly trendy state. Think avocado toast, In-N-Out Burger, Hollywood fashion, even legal pot.

But Californians are now in the vanguard to fix the serious problem of how to pay for public higher education.

Over 44 million households in the U.S. are saddled with college debt — $37,000 on average. Together they owe over $1.4 trillion, surpassing credit card debt and auto loans.

In the 1970s, California led the world with its famously accessible public universities and community colleges. Millions of Californians received a virtually debt-free college education.

A friend of mine attended both undergraduate and grad school at the University of California in the 1970s and covered all of his tuition and expenses by painting houses during two months of the summer.

That’s not possible anymore. Decades of tax cuts for the wealthy, state budget cuts, and rising tuition and fees have pushed costs much higher — and right onto students and their families.

Between 2011 and 2017, in-state tuition and fees at the University of California rose by nearly a quarter, from $10,940 to $13,509. Out-of-state costs grew to over $40,000.

San Francisco voters took a bold step in 2016 to push back on that trend.

They voted to tax luxury real estate tax transfers, generating over $44 million a year from property sales over $5 million. The city allocated a portion of this revenue to provide free tuition and stipends to San Francisco Community College, boosting enrollment by 16 percent.

“I jumped at the chance,” said Cynthia Diaz, a San Francisco resident studying early childhood education. “I have less stress juggling work, family, and school.”

Diaz has joined an effort to expand the concept beyond San Francisco. She’s collecting signatures for the California College for All initiative to expand college access for over 2.5 million California students.

If successful, the effort will generate an estimated $4 billion a year to invest in public higher education — and greatly reduce tuition and fees. Over 80 percent of the funds will be targeted to students based on need.

Funds will come from restoring a state inheritance tax on Californians with wealth over $3.5 million and couples with over $7 million. These same households just got a massive tax cut at the federal level, as Congress voted to double the family wealth exempted by the federal estate tax from $11 million to $22 million.

At a time of extraordinary wealth inequality, taxing wealth to pay for higher education is a powerful idea. If the California initiative passes in November, it will serve as a model to the nation for how to both reduce concentrated wealth and expand college opportunity.

It may sound radical. But the idea basically restores the formula for college access from the post-World War Two era. In the decades between 1945 and 1980, we taxed high incomes and wealth at much more progressive rates and invested in expanding public higher education.

Other states are addressing this problem too.

Tennessee created the Tennessee Promise, a scholarship and mentoring program that provides two years of “last dollar” assistance to college students to fill any gap not provided by Pell Grants. In Michigan, a group of anonymous donors started the Kalamazoo Promise, guaranteeing free tuition to students who graduate from that city’s high schools.

Other states, such as New York and Massachusetts, are moving toward free community college.

But the California solution would be the most comprehensive initiative yet, covering millions more students at all levels of the public education system.

That’s the best idea since beach volleyball and Mickey Mouse.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail