Wanted: Heroes to Slay Budget

Bill Shiebler is the president of the University of California Students Association. Send comments to [email protected]

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Since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released his budget proposal in January, students have made it loud and clear that California's families cannot take another fee increase and cuts to academic preparation programs. UC students statewide have sent over 12,000 postcards to the legislature, lobbied in-district and at the capitol and testified at budget and education committee hearings. And just last week, students faxed over 3,000 letters and made nearly 400 calls to Sacramento.

However, Governor Schwarzenegger released his revisions to the 2007-08 California State Budget with much disappointment to California's hard working students and families. As in the January budget proposal, the governor has once again turned his back on higher education by maintaining a 7-10 percent increase in fees and zero funding for academic preparation programs.

In addition, the governor also indicates that this pattern of back-door taxation on students and families is likely to continue until 2011, bringing the total fee increases well over 100 percent from where they were just a few years ago. This is frustrating and it's outrageous. The total cost of a UC education is already expensive and increasing fees another 7-10 percent is just unacceptable. In 2005, the total cost of a UC education for an incoming student was $20,474. Last year it increased by $678 and this year it will increase by an additional $1028.

The University of California Students Association does not accept the claims that there is no other option but to further increase the cost burden of a public higher education onto California's working families. With a nearly $200 million dollar surplus in unexpected tax revenue, it is clear the governor had the opportunity to be a champion for higher education, but he chose not to. Even the state Legislative Analyst's Office recommended only a 2.4 percent fee increase which would more realistically tie fee increases to rates of inflation. Thus, we are even more disappointed in the governor's decision to increase fees and zero fund academic preparation programs because he clearly had options.

Thousands of students, teachers and families have voiced the need to stop these increases all together through a fee buyout that many legislators support. But instead, the governor called for an increase, a tax on the middle and working class of California.

We can no longer allow Governor Schwarzenegger to pretend he is investing in the future of our state's economy. Instead, he is taking a gamble by poorly funding higher education and taxing over 200,000 students with another fee increase of almost $500 next year. With another 7-10 percent increase, UC students will be paying at least $7,493 in fees alone next year.

As the California budget process nears an end, the University of California Students Association will continue to pressure legislative leaders to uphold their commitment to the future of California. Many legislators have already vocally expressed their support for students but now it's time for them, including Speaker Fabian Nunez, to take action. The speaker and the budget conference committee are our last hope to ensure California's students and families are provided with an accessible and affordable higher education.

In the speaker's response to the May revision, he called the governor's budget “mean-spirited” and said that “at a time of record prosperity, it punishes low and middle-income families who are working hard and playing by the rules.” In addition to the cuts in programs for poor children, the elderly, blind and disabled, the governor has chosen to stand by his attacks on public higher education in California, all the while pretending that he wants California to remain economically competitive.

We know the speaker is a champion for those Californians who are constantly attacked by the governor and California's students and families need him to take action. We are urging Nunez to bring a proposal to the budget conference committee to prevent another 7-10 percent fee increase at UC campuses and restore academic preparation program funding to $33 million dollars. It is time for the legislature to address the UC access and affordability crisis and take a stand for the future of higher education.


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