Every Californian knows their public higher education system is in crisis, but perhaps none more than the students who are actually in it.
A student group called Fix UC from the University of Californiaâ€“Riverside has formally proposed abolishing tuition for the stateâ€™s entire University of California system, and instead, having it make money through deducting five percent of each alumnusâ€™ paycheck for the next 20 years of employment.
If implemented, the groupâ€™s reforms would affect the 159,000 students spread out among the 10 campuses that make up the UC system.
â€œThere have been ideas proposed in the past, but I would say that I havenâ€™t seen one like this one thatâ€™s gotten so much attention,â€ said Kris Lovekin, director of media relations at the University of Californiaâ€“Riverside. â€œTheyâ€™re getting compliments about coming to the table with an interesting idea.â€
The plan asserts that itâ€™s possible to receive just as good of an education â€” if not, a better one â€” without charging tuition, said Fix UC President Chris LoCascio,
That may be music to the ears of UC students. In 2011, the state cut $650 million in funding to the UC system and decreased its total support to the system by 21.3 percent. The cuts led to an 18 percent tuition hike in each of the UC systemâ€™s schools for the 2011-2012 academic school year. But this isnâ€™t a recent phenomenon. Over the last decade, the systemâ€™s tuition nearly quadrupled.
LoCascio, as editor-in-chief of the UCâ€“Riversideâ€™s student newspaper, became frustrated along with his editorial board by the UC systemâ€™s inability to handle budget shortfalls without exponentially raising tuition.
â€œAs concerned UC students, we needed to start our own proposal, and kick-start some ways of helping the university,â€ he said.
Starting in April 2011, the campus paperâ€™s editors worked for nine months trying to create a public higher education funding that didnâ€™t require up-front tuition costs to function.
When the group unveiled their proposal in a January UC System Board of Regents meeting, they received public praise for their workâ€™s merit, most notably from UC System President Mark Yudof.
Since then, Fix UC has won audiences with him and other influential system vice presidents.
The key to their success, though, wasnâ€™t just because they had good ideas. The way the student group has gone about creating and promoting its idea has been central to being taken seriously.
â€œTheyâ€™re being well received because their attitude is understanding of all the complexities that there are in the UC system,â€ Lovekin said.
Wally Rice, chairman of the Citizens University Committee, which facilitates UCâ€“Riversideâ€™s relationship with its surrounding community, remembers how Fix UC members acted during their presentation in the January Board of Regents meeting.
â€œIt was really civil discourse, which really pleases me,â€ he said. â€œI think that sometimes in the public realm, weâ€™ve kind of gotten to a part where weâ€™re barking at each other instead of being civil.â€
LoCascio expanded, adding that it wasnâ€™t necessary to be overly aggressive in being heard by UC system officials.
â€œThis is a testament,â€ he said, â€œto what can be accomplished when the student decides to set their mind on an issue and solve it in a productive way.â€
Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The number of students in the University of California System
The number of campuses in the University of California System
The amount of money cut from the University of California System
The percentage increase in tuition for the University of California System in 2011-2012