Could California's state universities see a tuition-free future?
- Higher taxes could enable most families in California to pay an average increase of $48 to subsidize free tuition at state institutions, according to a new report from Reclaim California Higher Education.
- The plan would require $9.4 billion in additional funding from state resources, but would introduce a progressive earnings tax increase scale that would range from $1 to $50,000 for low and high-earning households, respectively.
- Critics say that the plan would not draw political support, but would be a potentially valuable tool in eliminating student debt for in-state residents remaining at home for higher education.
It is unlikely that residents in any state would support tax increases, but the concept of developing financial models for higher education affordability is a task that college systems should be regularly analyzing. Not only can this kind of research spur positive coverage for an institution, but it also invites an additional focus on wealth gaps, social inequity and the value of higher education in eliminating these disparities.
The concept of free college tuition was pushed to the forefront by candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the 2016 presidential campaign. And while it's unlikely to catch on at the national level anytime soon, particularly liberal states like California could potentially find adequate public support to accomplish it on their own for in-state students. Stranger things have happened, and while Tennessee and a handful of other states have launched free community college programs, successfully bringing that to four-year tuition would potentially break new ground and encourage changes in funding priorities on a broader scale.