FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

College for All: a California Trend Worth Catching

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
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail