High school students in Oakland are pushing to get an initiative onto the California ballot that would raise income tax revenue to pay for their college tuition.
A year ago, then senior students from public charter school Oakland Unity High School and public school Life Academy of Health wrote the College for California ballot initiative as part of a senior class project. They and current seniors have been collecting signatures for an actual proposed measure, which would make university tuition free for full-time, in-state students who maintain a 2.7 GPA in college or perform 70 hours of community service each year.
"About the 2.7 GPA, the point is, we want more people to go to college. There are a lot of students who are really bright who have a lot of extracurricular activities," said Estephanie Franco, a senior at Oakland Unity High School. "I'm a first-generation student, and there should be more students like me getting into college."
The measure would be subsidized by tax payers who earn more than $250,000 a year in taxable income. The plan would be available to all students, regardless of economic background.
"This is going to cover everyone, every single resident in California," said Franco. "This applies to the affluent people here as well as the low income."
The students maintain that they want to restore the tuition-free education policy the state Legislature embraced in 1960 when it adopted the California Master Plan for Higher Education. The total cost, however, would be $2.8 billion.
"We certainly have an issue in California in terms of college affordability," said Linda De Angelo, of UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. "This coming year will be the first year that students will be putting in more for their educations than the state."
Should California tax-payers earning over $250,000 be forced to shell out tuition for in-state students? Is this approach a reasonable strategy for closing the gap between the 99 percent and the 1 percent?
Estephania Franco, a senior at public charter school Oakland Unity High School, and one of a group of students who started the College for California ballot petition
Linda De Angelo, assistant director for research at the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute