State Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez proposed a plan on Wednesday to provide more scholarship money for middle-class UC and CSU students.
If passed, the bill would provide $1 billion to students already receiving need-based aid, those with family incomes lower than $150,000 each year and those who do not currently qualify for university grants, Cal grants or Pell grants. The program's funding would come from closing a tax loophole favoring out-of-state companies that do not pay California income taxes, saving eligible UC students $8,000 a year and CSU students over $4,000.
UC Student Association Communications and Organizing Director Darius Kemp said the plan offers an alternative means for financial aid that does not require cutting educational programs or increasing taxes.
"We're very excited about the plan and proposal," Darius said. "It's exactly how [financial aid] should be funded. It should be funded through the corporate loopholes that allow for the wealthy corporations to not pay their fair share."
According to third-year political science major Arpine Vardanyan, the bill would be essential for students who may not qualify for state aid yet still face dire financial constraints.
"Being middle-class myself, I don't get as much financial help and this would help me [with] school tuition — books mainly — [and the] cost of living. As I'm looking forward to get out of the dorms [and] into an apartment, I need to be able to afford rent monthly," Vardanyan said. "I believe that, as a student, you should be able to focus on school and not worry about where your money is going to come from or where your next meal or rent money is going to come from."
UC President Mark Yudof released a statement expressing support for the initiative and its goal to make UC education accessible to a broad scope of students, but asserted that the university system already provides many services in this area.
"Like Assembly Speaker Pérez, we are deeply concerned about ensuring affordability for middle-class students who don't qualify for financial aid," Yudof said in the press release. "That said, the University of California has made it a priority to make a high-quality education accessible to a wide range of students from families with low or moderate income. Roughly half of UC students pay no tuition because of robust financial aid reinforced by an ongoing institutional commitment."
As the proposal requires a two-thirds approval in the legislature, Kemp said he encourages students to support the measure through active participation, such as lobbying.
"We want people to call their legislator; we will need two Republicans in the senate and two Republicans in the house to get this bill passed through," Kemp said. "We are asking everyone to get involved or contact their local student government external vice president office."