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OPINION: California public colleges should be more affordable, not more expensive

UC Berkeley graduates leap for joy before Commencement 2006. UC Berkeley is ranked the fourth best university in the world by US News and Reports (Courtesy: UC Regents and UC Berkeley website)

By Isabella Ainsworth,
BlueDevilHUB.com Editor-in-Chief–

California public universities have long been the envy of other states. These world-class institutions are better than most private universities and help jumpstart the social mobility of many of their poorer students.

However, this noble mission of the California public universities to educate the best and the brightest students in the state, regardless of income, is under threat right now. With tuition increases and the potential loss of middle-class scholarships, it is becoming even harder to be a middle-class student attending a California university.

Instead of making California universities more expensive, the state should increase funding to the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems and make college more affordable for regular students.

Not only are California public universities good for being “public” universities, they are, quite simply, great universities. US News and World Report ranked UC Berkeley as the fourth best global university in the world and UCLA as the 10th best one.

Filled with connections to Nobel Prize winners, famous CEOS and Pulitzer Prize winners, these highly ranked institutions are also some of the best at serving low-income and underprivileged students.

Around 500 students at UC Berkeley and another 500 students at UCLA have started out in the bottom 40 percent of household incomes in the United States, but have ended up making it to the top one percent.

Forty percent of students at UC Irvine received pell grants, which typically go to students with families that make less than $70,000 a year. Fifty-five percent of incoming freshman at UC Irvine in 2016 were also the first generation in their family to go to college.

While the University of California already has generous aid programs, including a “Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan” where families making less than $80,000 a year receive free tuition, it is becoming increasingly difficult to be a middle-class student in the UC System.

The UC Regents voted earlier this year to raise tuition for the 2017-18 school year to $13, 254, making the total estimated cost of a UC around $34,000 a year. The California State University trustees are also considering increasing tuition.

This comes at the same time that Governor Jerry Brown is threatening to get rid of the “middle-class scholarships” that can help families making more than $80,000 a year but less than $156,000 a year.

Even though $34,000 is significantly less than the $70,000 most private universities cost a year, it is still by no means affordable for a family making $100,000 a year. No family should have to spend such a large proportion of their income on a good education for their child.

The benefits of going to college have also increased. Lately it is becoming harder to find well-paying jobs that do not require a college education. On average, college graduates earn 84 percent more over the course of a lifetime than people who stopped their education after high school.

In addition to being a basic right, a college education increases earning power and enriches a person’s life. California should invest more in higher education so that it can provide more support for middle and lower income students attending its state institutions.

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