Bookbyte Blog

Posts tagged ‘college tuition’

California Students: Vote or Face Higher Tuition

You can educate yourself about candidates, but at the end of the day, most people will vote along party lines. That’s just the way things are.

But in most elections, there are other things at stake than just who will take office. The times democracy really gets to chance to shine are with propositions (or ballot initiatives or measures or whatever your state calls them).

That’s when doing your homework before the election really matters. You can’t just say, “More like NObama! LOL! Straight Republican ticket!” or “Binders full of women! LOL! Straight Democrat!” When you’ve got an initiative, you actually need to pay attention to what’s being asked.

This election, college students (and rising college students) in California are faced with two competing propositions, Prop 30 and Prop 38, that could significantly impact how public institutions earn money. If neither of them pass, students should expect to get a tuition hike of around 20%. The schools have to find the money somewhere.

Here’s what each of the propositions are asking:

Prop. 30 — The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012

  • Tax hike of 1-3% on single taxpayers earning over $250,000. Also, sales tax goes up a quarter of a cent.
  • Will raise $6 billion over 7 years.
  • If it doesn’t pass, University of California and California State University lose $250 million and K-12 schools lose 3 weeks off the school year.

Prop. 38 — Our Children. Our Future. Local School and Early Education Investment and Bond Reduction Act

  • Tax hike of 0.4-2.2% on single taxpayers earning over $7,316.
  • Will raise over $10 billion over 12 years.
  • No immediate repercussions, but that’s a lot of money K-12 schools won’t get. Plus the state can’t start to pay off its bonds.

Only one of these will be accepted, so if they both receive enough votes to pass, then the one with more votes will get passed into law.

That creates a weird situation, since it makes the two propositions half-compete with each other. The ballot wants you to consider each of these propositions independently, allowing you to vote “yes” or “no” for both, if you want. But both can’t pass.

That means you need to vote strategically. Do you want CA schools to get more money no matter what? Vote both. Do you think the difference between these propositions is significant enough that you want to pick a favorite? Vote for one. Do you think any tax increase isn’t worth it? Vote neither.


“As Much Education As They Can Afford” — Gaffe or the Plain Truth?

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R)

At a rally in Virginia, Mitt Romney said that he wanted to make sure that America remains “a place of opportunity,” where “everyone has a fair shot” and “get[s] as much education as they can afford.”

Now, we’re not a political blog. And we really, really don’t want to be one. A political blog latches on to every bit of phrasing and twists and turns it around to try to reveal some hidden truth or underlying theme about a candidate, a party, an organization, whatever. The knee-jerk reaction to Romney’s phrasing is easy: “What do you mean as much as they can afford? Are you saying the financially privileged deserve better educations than other Americans?”

That’s a boring conversation. Is Romney’s phrasing a subtle hint at an underlying bias toward the wealthy? Who cares? The last thing I want to do is contribute to the always petty conversation around election season.

But we are (or at least we’d like to think we are) a blog about ideas. And at the root of over-analyzing Romney’s statement is an interesting discussion: How much education should be free, and how much should you have to pay for?

First of all, education is never free. It can’t be. Even if, in the future, our current concepts of classrooms, degrees, and homework are completely unrecognizable, students will always need two things: equipment (books, computers, art supplies, etc.) and teachers (professors, coaches, etc.). Even if the students of the future consume all of their education through all-purpose interactive tablets, someone needs to buy the tablets. Even if the students of the future are all taught by very life-like robots, someone needs to pay the programmers and engineers making robots. Because teachers will always need salaries and equipment will always need to be purchased, someone always needs to pay for education, whether parents, taxpayers, grant donors, or the students themselves.

So when we say “free” what we really need to be saying is “accessible.” Should everyone have the same access to education? Well, sure. That should be an easy answer. That’s only what’s fair, right? No sane person would claim that the very poor don’t deserve to be just as informed as anybody else. That’s the reason why it’s important to make sure resources like libraries and public schools allow anyone to access them freely. We can’t claim to be a democratic society and prevent accessibility of information.

But at the same time, we can’t really claim that all education is created equal. Obviously, some schools are going to be better than other schools. A lot of that depends on the quality of the teachers. A lot of that depends on the quality of the administrators. But most of it, unfortunately, has to do with money. Schools with more money will be able to pay teachers better, provide better tools for their students, fund more extracurricular activities, and provide more out-of-the-classroom experiences. So while we should certainly always strive to make education be as universally accessible as possible, the sad fact is that it won’t be.

Let’s take it back to Romney’s words, specifically, the word “afford.” Naturally, when we think about affording something, we think about money, but that’s actually a secondary definition. The primary, according to Merriam-Webster anyway, is “to manage [or] to bear without serious detriment.” So “affording” education means more than just paying for it. It means being able to dedicate the time and energy necessary to achieve your goals.

Again, I’m not here to nitpick word choice of a person who’s on camera 24/7, I’m just making a point. An education is always going to be an investment. Even if you didn’t have to pay for four years of undergraduate studies, you still were dedicating four years of your life toward making your future opportunities better. That’s a cost in itself. And that’s a cost that not everyone will be able to handle.

Getting a good education is achieved through hard work and good resources. That’s always going to take money and energy. The more we can help one another have access to quality education, the better. But there will always be a personal cost to a student: long-term, like loans, or short-term, like choosing to be a full-time student instead of having a job. We can (and should) keep the cost as low as possible, but a student needs to be willing to make that personal investment.


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