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New bill announced to freeze tuition hikes

California Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva announced the Student Protection Act last week, which – if passed – will freeze tuition and fee hikes for California State Universities and California Community Colleges through the 2019-20 academic year.

Quirk-Silva introduced the bill, AB 393, to the California State Assembly on Feb. 9 and publicly announced the bill at a press conference last week. The bill proposes that tuition and fees shall be frozen as charged since Dec. 31, 2016.

“We know now, more than ever, our students are struggling not only to pay their rents, to be able to work, to pay for food and other essentials, but also to go to college,” Quirk-Silva said.

She referred to the California Master Plan for Higher Education, drafted in 1960, which she said reaffirmed California’s longtime commitment to the principle of tuition free education to California residents.

“This moratorium will give students and their families peace of mind that the already high costs of higher education will be capped for the near future, as the Legislature works on long-term funding solutions for the three segments of our higher education system,” Quirk-Silva said.

The California Faculty Association is sponsoring the act, and Dr. Kevin Wehr, sociology professor and president of the CFA chapter at CSU Sacramento, stood with Quirk-Silva as the bill was announced.

“The California Faculty Association is sponsoring the Student Protection Act because the faculty members of the CSU see the impact first-hand of financial stress on our students’ ability to prepare for class, to buy the books and have time to study – not to mention their health and well-being,” Wehr said.

Every fee increase and tuition hike leads to students working extra shifts and multiple jobs, Wehr said, and some students dropped out because they could not afford the tuition raises.

The CSU board of trustees is expected to vote in March on a 5 percent tuition increase for undergraduates, which is $270. CSU East Bay sophomore Isaiah de la Cruz also spoke in favor of the new bill during the conference.

“I am working three jobs and taking 16-17 units a quarter,” de la Cruz said. “The board of trustees is considering a tuition increase of $270, which is a quarter of my paycheck.”

De la Cruz said he is grateful to Quirk-Silva for introducing the bill, and that many students cannot afford an extra $270.

Quirk-Silva said the bill could be approved by the end of the legislative session in September. It will need a simple majority vote to pass.

“This won’t be easy, and we’re at the very beginning stages of this legislation,” Quirk-Silva said. “We know that we will have serious talks with our caucus members. We will have serious talks with our Senate friends and with our governor. The investment in education is the investment of our future.”