California's middle-class families have suffered greatly during these difficult economic times. Middle-class parents are struggling to stay in their jobs, keep their homes and ensure that their children have opportunities to succeed in life.
Restoring prosperity to the middle class means restoring opportunities for all. That's why I introduced the Middle Class Scholarship Act.
The measure is simple: if you are a student whose family income is too high to receive financial aid but too low to just write a check for college, we will cut your student fees at UC and CSU by two-thirds.
With the Middle Class Scholarship, CSU students will save $4,000 per year – or $16,000 over a four-year period, and UC students will save about $8,200 per year – or nearly $33,000 over a four-year period. Community college students will also see their costs reduced significantly.
The investments that previous generations of Californians made in higher education guaranteed every student who was willing to work hard could earn a place in the California State University or the University of California systems. You didn't have to be rich to tap into the riches higher education has to offer.
Yet the past few years have seen extreme pressures placed on that system. The collapse in the economy has made college education more expensive and less accessible. Massive fee increases have eroded or even ended the dream of higher education for too many students. Since the 2003-04 academic year, CSU fees have increased 191 percent, UC fees have increased 145 percent, and community college student fees have also increased significantly.
It is our generation's duty to reverse that, and to once again ensure access to college for all Californians, particularly those in the increasingly squeezed middle class. Now that the economy appears to be recovering and our budget situation is stabilizing, it is time for our state to reinvest in our system of higher learning.
We pay for this dramatic reduction in the cost of higher education by closing an egregious corporate tax loophole that benefits large out-of-state corporations and was demanded by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of the 2009 budget deal. Ending this corporate loophole giveaway, which had bipartisan support in the Assembly last year, will bring in more than $1 billion for the Middle Class Scholarship – a purpose that will benefit every single Californian.
Families who receive the Middle Class Scholarship will benefit immediately by reducing a huge expense, saving them thousands of dollars that can then be spent elsewhere, which helps our economy overall. California companies benefit from the highly educated and trained workers who will graduate from our public institutions. Everyone can benefit from the entrepreneurship that California graduates pursue, the way we have from the high-tech, biotech and green-tech innovations.
When parents send their children to a CSU or a UC, they are making an investment in their kids' future. California benefits from that investment, and we should take every step we can to ensure that more students have the opportunity to benefit from a higher education.
As Gov. Jerry Brown stated last month, California is clearly on the mend. One of the best ways we can help that mending process continue is by enacting the Middle Class Scholarship, providing substantial relief to middle-class families with children in college. This vital tool will help us rebuild and grow our economy – and redeem the legacy that made California a global powerhouse.