Eggman annouces bill to fund tuition-free college

Monday, March 20, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton on Monday announced legislation to make tuition at California’s community colleges and public universities free for state residents.

The bill, AB 1356, “Renewing the California Dream,” closes the unfunded gap between existing aid programs and the cost of tuition and fees at California’s community colleges and public universities, an estimated $2 billion shortfall. It does so by charging a 1 percent tax on household incomes of $1,000,000 or more, which would provide about $2.2 billion. That revenue would then be deposited in the Higher Education Assistance Fund, created by the bill.

“The cost of sending your kids to college has been rising faster than wages for the great majority of Californians,” said Eggman, who was an associate professor at Sacramento State University before she was elected to the State Assembly. “Too many families are caught in the middle of these opposing forces, and are unable to afford college for their children without taking on massive debt.”

From 1969 to 2015, median household income has increased only 10%, while tuition costs at the University of California increased 530%, and tuition and fees in the California State University system increased by 685%. A recent study from the Equality of Opportunity project found that Californian children’s prospects of earning more than their parents have dropped from 89% to 49% in the last 50 years.

Eggman was joined in authoring the bill by Assembly members Rob Bonta, D-Oakland and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego.

"Every Californian deserves an opportunity to live the dream of attending college and meeting their full potential," Bonta said. “More and more, this dream is becoming out of reach for so many California students because of rising costs and the reality of being saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt upon graduation. This bill will restore the tuition-free public system California successfully operated for many years.”

Dr. Weber was a faculty member and department chair at San Diego State University for four decades. She also attended UCLA, where she received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.

“I was a product of California’s promise of affordable higher education. But the dream of many students to attend college is now hindered by the rising costs over the last few decades,” Weber said. “One of the drivers of California’s economy is our world class higher education system, we need to think affordable higher education as an investment not a luxury.”

AB 1356 is designed to work in concert with existing aid programs, not replace them.