Over 300 University of California students lobbied Assembly members to pass the College Affordability Act at the state capital this weekend.
If approved, the legislation would place a five-year freeze on fees in the UC and CSU systems, guarantee that the top eighth of high school graduates have a place at a UC and make the diversity of UC representative of the state. The bill would impose a one percent tax on personal income above one million dollars.
An identical bill was proposed to the State Assembly in 2007, where it failed.
David Preciado, a second-year Chicana and Chicano studies and political science double major, said he believes making higher education accessible for today’s students will have long term benefits.
“Just imagine what it would mean for the College Affordability Act to pass – what it would mean for higher education,” he said. “Not only would it freeze fees, but it would also make legislators look at higher education in a different way and prioritize students. For every dollar the state invests in education, the state gets three dollars in return. We are the investments of the future.”
While in Sacramento, students from the ten UCs attended workshops with the aim of learning how to lobby officials. Students also held a funeral-themed press conference they deemed “Keep the Promise Alive” – a reference to the “death” of an affordable education with the governor’s cut of $65 million to the UC budget. The weekend of events was put on by the University of California Student Association, a non-profit group which advocates for accessible education.
A delegation of 47 students represented UCSB at the lobby conference.
Associated Students President J.P. Primeau said he valued the opportunity to express his views to state representatives.
“What I love about lobbying is just coming in and talking to a legislator who might not even see things my way – who might not value education as much as I value education,” he said. “My favorite part is getting into that talk and getting into that conversation with them and hoping to come away with an impact.”
Corey Huber, a third-year political science major and A.S. external vice president of statewide affairs, said the issue of education is a very personal one.
“The reason I attended the conference was to be current with system wide policies, to network with the other UCs and to spearhead that vehicle for change,” Huber said. “I’ll be lobbying first and foremost for Cal Grants and student aid because it’s not just a student issue. It’s a Corey issue. It hits closer to home.”
Meanwhile, Charlie Arreola, a third-year political science major, said he was inspired to attend the conference because he was the only one of his friends to attend a UC.
“Being a student from a lower income background and coming to the conference I feel empowered with what UCSA is doing,” Arreola said. “It motivates me and reassures me that there are people in my community who will be able to attend an institution of higher learning.”
Many others were also motivated by personal experience to lobby for the College Affordability Act. Jaclyn Feldstein, who had to work three jobs while attending school, said she hoped the bill would mean future students would not need to shoulder the same burden.
“Even though I’m graduating I care about students that are going into the system and I don’t want them to have the same experiences that I had, working 20 hours a week,” Feldstein, a fourth-year religious studies and art history double major, said. “Higher education is a right – not a privilege.”