Every fall, students submit their college applications for the following year. They can then expect an automated response, thanking them for their application and letting them know when decisions will be made.
For students applying to the California State Universities this year, they’ll be getting something extra after they hit submit button.
In a draft of this year’s automated response letter, applicants are warned about “trigger” cuts tied to Proposition 30, which would amount to $250 million cut in funds for the CSU system. Critics say the wording of the letter amounts to a political pitch to support Governor Brown’s tax proposal at the polls this November.
"California law is very clear that, while public money can be spend public money on purely informational activity, it cannot take a side in an election," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, on AirTalk. "This has clearly crossed the line into political advocacy and using taxpayer resources to do so."
If passed, Prop 30 would would temporarily increase tax levies and income taxes for the those who make $250,000 and more a year, raising billions for the state budget. If the measure passes, the letter continues, more applicants can be admitted to CSU; if it fails, fewer freshman will be joining the ranks.
CSU officials deny that the purpose of the letter is to gain support for Prop 30, and say it is simply to be transparent about the status of applications.
"This is essentially an effort to educate students and parents about why we're holding all of the applications until after the November election…and also about what Prop 30 means to our budget, since our budget is tied to enrollment," said Claudia Keith, CSU assistant vice chancellor for public affairs. "If Prop 30 fails, our budget will be cut immediately by $250 million. That's a fact, that's not advocating one way or the other."
However, anti-tax advocates say the implication is clear: Vote for Prop 30 to improve your chances of getting into CSU.
"It's not factual, we've seen this over and over again where K-12 is threatened, we saw this in 2009 with proposition 1A…When the voters rejected it miraculously they found the money to do it," said Coupal. "Prop 30 would give California the biggest tax burden in America. There are states that fully fund higher education and do it better with much less money, so its not a question of money it's a question of political will."
The CSU application process begins October 1, so officials still have two weeks to finalize the wording of the letter.
Is CSU hoping to coerce applicants into voting for a measure that will fill its coffers? Have you or your child applied to a CSU school this year? How will Proposition 30 fit into your college plans?
Jon Coupal, president, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Claudia Keith, assistant vice chancellor for public affairs, California State University