High Schoolers Try to Free College Students from Tuition Burden

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grass roots efforts to stem the tide of rising tuition or, perhaps, ban tides entirely have begun the process of bringing the issue to a vote at the polls. One initiative, submitted to the Secretary of State’s office in April, would prohibit increases in tuition or general fees for all students in good standing at the University of California, California State University or a community college. It needs 807,615 signatures by September 6, 2012.

A second, more ambitious initiative called College for California, aims to ban tuition and fees and pay for student educations with a state income tax increase on persons making more than $250,000 a year. The campaign, started as a high school senior class project at Life Academy of Health & Bioscience and Oakland Unity High School, would benefit college students who maintain a 2.7 grade point average or perform 70 hours of community service each year.

The competition for getting an education initiative on the November ballot is stiff this year, with Governor Jerry Brown pushing for one that would raise money for public schools and community colleges, and civil rights attorney and millionaire Molly Munger spearheading her own K-12 campaign that would raise $10 billion over 12 years by hiking income taxes on all but the poorest Californians.

But the high school student effort would be a long shot under the best of conditions. Ballot initiatives, once the domain of progressive forces that made them part of the state constitution a century ago, generally need the resources now of a powerful interest group or the state to get before the voters. Qualifying an initiative for the ballot generally requires an organization that can round up hundreds of thousands of signatures in less than half a year at a cost of one or two dollars per signature.

“There has not, in the modern era, been a true grass-roots initiative that has made it to the ballot,” according to Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego.


California Ballot Initiative Would Make College Free for Residents (by Katy Murphy, Oakland Tribune)

Students from Two Oakland High Schools Propose Initiative on Ballot to Do Away with College Tuition (by Melissa Simon, Daily Sundial)

Initiatives and Referenda Cleared for Circulation (Secretary of State’s Office)

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