Fiscal conservatives detest the idea of tuition free college, arguing that it would considerably increase the tax burden on countless Americans. Despite this, a research report issued by Reclaim California Higher Education, a college advocacy group, in January claims that middle class families in California would only have to pay an extra $48 annually to make free college a reality.
Under what is being called Reclaim California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, the proposal calls for the Donahoe Act of 1960 to be restored. This act called for state colleges to waive tuition for California residents. To reinstitute the program, it would cost the public higher education system in California an additional $9.43 billion throughout the 2016-2017 school year.
As mentioned earlier, reinstating the act would only amount to $48 a year for California households that make less than $150,000. California families in the top 5% income bracket would pay an additional $7,100 per year. Households that make less than $10,000 each year would pay $2 a year or less. The group says that $48 for middle class families in California would decrease to $36 if the state embraces an estate tax and an oil severance tax.
“The harm to a generation of hard-working, high-aiming young people is proven. It’s time to return to what works: the proven Master Plan for higher education in California,” the group wrote in the research report. “California, with its own resources, can afford to restore top-quality, accessible, affordable college and university opportunity to every qualified student.”
The cries for debt free or tuition free college are growing louder as the nation faces a mounting $1.3 trillion student loan bill. Like in California, other states are working to solve their debt issues while providing accessible higher education. It’s a tough formula that leaves many states simply asking for more in taxes.
A similar story occurred in New York recently when Cuomo proposed waiving SUNY and CUNY for essentially all middle class families. In local cases, cities such as San Francisco in California set aside tax payer dollars to fund tuition-free community college. In other cases, Illinois lawmakers explicitly referenced taxing the rich to pay for higher education funding provisions.
According to Reclaim California Higher Education, students and their families in California increasingly pay more for a college education, but they end up getting less. “California is now failing to produce enough college-educated citizens to support its economic future,” the group noted in the report. With the Master Plan restored, they said California higher education wouldn’t have to supplement funding gaps with non-resident tuition, providing more college access to the state’s students.
At any rate, the demand for college education is not declining anytime soon, but there seems to be two different solutions to the overall issue. The first is targeting the rich to pay for higher education. The new policy in California would tax the high income bracket considerably more than the middle and lower classes. Lawmakers in Illinois specifically mentioned taxing the rich to pay for free college. On top of this, Bernie Sanders’ free college proposal specifically goes after high income brackets to account for the ramp up in spending.
In opposition, there are other initiatives looking for solutions other than dipping into the rich’s pockets. One plan sought a solution that relied on retaining graduates in STEM fields such as a recent New Hampshire proposal; such a plan would lead to economic gain for the state to supplement a tax payer hit. Another proposal such as Senator Rubio’s ISA proposal would rely on private companies to cut student loan debt.
Author: Donna Fuscaldo
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