Skip to comments.California ballot initiative would make college free for residents
Posted on 03/22/2012 4:43:26 PM PDT by SmithL
OAKLAND -- Clipboards in hand, high school seniors Estephania Franco and Jocelyn Sanchez approached a group of UC Berkeley students sitting on a curb in Sproul Plaza.
"Hey guys, you want free tuition?" one of them asked.
"Free? Tuition?" sophomore Josh Netter asked, as if waiting for the punchline. "I just feel like it's too good to be possible."
It wouldn't be -- if, by June, supporters of the "College for California" ballot petition managed to gather the signatures of 807,615 people registered to vote in California. And, of course, if voters approved it.
The proposed constitutional amendment, researched and written a year ago as part of a senior class project at Life Academy and Oakland Unity High School, would make state university tuition-free for full-time, in-state students who maintain a 2.7 GPA or perform 70 hours of community service each year. Californians who earn more than $250,000 a year in taxable income would subsidize this additional cost through higher income taxes. The students say they want to restore the tuition-free education policy the state Legislature embraced in 1960 when it adopted the California Master Plan for Higher Education.
The chances of the effort becoming more than a lesson in democracy, however, are slim at best.
"There has not, in the modern era, been a true grass roots initiative that has made it to the ballot," said Thad Kousser, a political-science professor at UC San Diego. By contrast, he said, "Any rich person that has access to a couple million dollars basically snaps their fingers and gets access to the ballot."
California's century-old ballot initiative process was created to counter the powerful interest groups thought to be controlling the state government, said John Matsusaka, president of the University of Southern California's Initiative and Referendum Institute. In practice, he said, the great number of signatures required and the short time frame in which to gather them -- about five months -- make it near-impossible for even the most well organized of citizen groups to succeed without a trove of cash and an army of paid signature gatherers.
Qualifying a statewide ballot measure typically costs $1 to $2 per signature -- and, in competitive initiatives, it can rise to $10, he said.
This year, the competition for education tax measures is stiff. Gov. Jerry Brown and his allies are raising millions of dollars to put another education tax measure before voters that would raise money for public schools and community colleges. Molly Munger, a civil rights attorney and multimillionaire who is advancing her own K-12 education initiative, has so far spent at least $3.4 million of her personal fortune.
Without a budget of any kind, students and teachers behind College for California started a Facebook page and a website, hoping to harness some of the growing outrage over rising tuition costs, massive student loans and the nation's growing wealth disparities, explained Suneal Kolluri and Kara Duros, the teachers who are coordinating the effort.
"Our philosophy was, 'Yeah, we don't have money, we don't have influence, but we have students'" -- nearly 2 million in public high schools, statewide, Kolluri said.
The group contacted other high school teachers, with little success. Most student leaders on university campuses were backing the higher-profile Millionaires Tax, which has since merged with Brown's education initiative. That combined proposition does not include funding for state universities -- a point the College for California team hopes will lead more campus leaders to support their proposal. But time is running out. Their deadline is in June.
The students say they know what they're up against; so far, they believe they have gathered only about 1,000 signatures. Still, they say that even if this attempt falls short, they will have succeeded in making people think differently about the possibilities, and maybe take it further the next time.
At UC Berkeley, some of the college students contemplated the proposal after Franco and Sanchez had moved on to a different group.
"If it was free, it's just a crazy thing to wrap my mind around," said Eric Tymstra, a sophomore. Netter, who sat next to him, said he wished the students luck. "Who wouldn't sign that petition?" he said.
When have leftists ever cared if there is money to pay for their wants?
We need a competing petition that would have the state pay the students a “living wage” to go to free college.
Anyone should be able to see where this circus would lead.
The entire nation of Mexico would jump across the border the day after the election.
“would make state university tuition-free for full-time, in-state students who maintain a 2.7 GPA
2.7 gpa? That’s hard”
don’t forget the:
“OR 70 hours community service”!
“The really really stupid kids
will do the community service.”
And petty criminals who have to do court-ordered community service automatically qualify for free college tuition!
“He can just live and work for a year.”
Work? He don’t need to do no stinking work! Just live on welfare there for a year to become a resident!
All the way to China!
The major moving companies better gear up:
There will be lots of business if this passes.
There is no way that the high end earners with a lick of sense will stay in Calif & get taxed for something like this.
Especially since the wording says “residents’.
That lets ILLEGALS get a ‘free’ college education-—and then they CANNOT be hired by FEDERAL law since they are not a citizen!!! Throwing $$$ down a rat hole.
The second step will be thousands of young people moving to California—working for a year to establish ‘residency’ and then demanding their FREE tuition.
This is a bottomless pit of a financial disaster.
And what say the recent Cal state resident graduates who have a $60,000 debt following them around?