Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Working Families Student Fee Transparency and Accountability Act, which requires at least a 30-day notification for a proposed tuition increase and a minimum 90-day period before adoption of a proposed tuition increase in the UC and CSU systems.
The bill, labeled AB 970, was co-sponsored by the UC Student Association and the California State Student Association in response to increasingly common tuition hikes in the UC and CSU and as a means to build communication between students and regents. Brown also signed SB 1052 and 1053 the same day, which allow for the creation of an open source online digital textbook library that provides common course textbooks for a substantially reduced price.
AB 970 also requires the Board of Trustees to provide justification for the change in tuition and make efforts to decrease the impact of fees on lower-income students.
UCSB Director of Financial Aid and Scholarships Mike Miller said AB 970 will provide students with more knowledge about increases beforehand so they can, in theory, be well-prepared.
“Currently, the University of California Regents approve changes in tuition rates after consulting with various groups within the UC System,” Miller said. “AB 970 opens the door for dialogue to happen between administrators and students, which in my opinion is a good thing.”
Miller said increasing tuition is one of the most pressing issues facing students at UCSB, and having the extra time to plan ahead will allow students to better understand increases and have more of an influence in the process.
“Students deserve to voice their concerns about the rising cost of higher education and I think allowing our families more time to plan for increases will be beneficial. I would like to see more communication and awareness, especially on the UCSB campus,” Miller said. “Affordability is one of the biggest issues students face today, so a bill like AB 970 is welcomed especially if it creates awareness.”
Residence Halls Association President Jonathan Abboud said while he believes the law will benefit students, it only postpones the inevitable reality of rising tuition in the UC system.
“I think it’s a great step in the right direction of having the regents be more in accordance with the students they’re supposed to be representing,” Abboud said, “but it’s also a small step; the end goal is having more student representation on the board of regents, because right now the bill says they have to consult with students before they raise fees — which is great — but effectively it doesn’t mean that fees still aren’t going to be raised.”
Abboud said he would like to see more student representation among the decision-making bodies behind these hikes.
“Right now we only have one student voting member on the board of regents and there are 18 voting members so it’s lopsided in terms of the interests being represented on the board,” Abboud said.
According to Abboud, AS and RHA collaborated on a new program during Week of Welcome for freshmen as an effort to inform and educate students on California’s school budget.
“We’ve begun this program called ‘Teach the Budget’ where we teach students everything they need to know about the statewide budget situation, the structure of the system and the regents,” Abboud said.
Abboud said because this bill allows more time in between proposing and implementing an increase it also gives students more time to voice their concerns.
“I know this bill has been passed now, but regardless, if Prop. 30 — which is a tax that will help fund state schools — doesn’t pass this November, no matter whether this bill is in place, tuition will increase in January,” Abboud said.