College Access: Tuition Only Part of Story

This op-ed was written by College Futures Foundation CEO Julia Lopez and California Competes Council Member Mike Roos and originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 15, 2017. 

For many in California, May marks the beginning of commencement season. Graduates and their families mark their accomplishments and step forward to new opportunities. Unfortunately, increasingly in California, the month highlights a more somber reality. Thousands of college applicants are being denied admission, either because our state universities did not have capacity to admit them or because they could not pay the cost of attendance.

In recent months, the public conversation about the “free college” proposal signaled a welcome return to recognizing the importance of investing in higher education in California. Eliminating tuition in public colleges and universities would encourage those who did not think they could afford college to pursue their education, and it would offer students welcome financial relief.

The unanswered question remains: How long could the state afford to pick up this hefty tab? What happens the next time there is an economic downturn and the state budget needs to be cut back?

The state will face the same difficult choices that led to substantial tuition increases during the past few years. To balance the state budget, higher education will experience budget reductions, and institutions will once again turn to increasing tuition revenues to soften the impact of these cuts.

We must break free of this pattern. Making college more accessible and affordable to all qualified Californians over the long run will require a more fundamental rethinking of how California finances the increasing demand for higher education and plans for our collective future.

Read more here.

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