The California government has made a step in the right direction: it raised the income ceiling on tuition assistance for the middle class. The running logic is that the poor already have a net of assistance, but the middle class are slipping further from their dreams of obtaining a college degree. And this is true, with the stubborn Great Recession still lingering, more and more middle class workers are falling into the lower economic categories.
California lawmakers wrapped up their work on the state budget on Saturday, approving bills detailing plans for university tuition assistance, energy efficiency projects and the expansion of healthcare programs.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who reached a deal on the budget with top Democratic lawmakers a week ago, has almost two weeks to sign the spending plan into law and veto any individual items he disagrees with, reports the LA Times.
The governor issued a brief statement Saturday afternoon on Twitter, saying, “After two and a half years of struggle and difficult times, California’s budget is balanced and sustainable into the future.”
Difficult times they were–however, the bipartisan support for the budget came together. Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) said the final spending plan is proof of the good working relationship among him, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and the governor.
The budget, he said in a statement, “reflects the values of the people of California and the urgent challenges facing our state.” A measure to provide tuition assistance at public universities, which Pérez has been pushing for more than a year, also passed. Under the plan, financial aid will be provided to students from families who earn up to $150,000 a year, provided the students maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average. It will be phased in over four years, with an eventual cost of $300 million annually.
This might be an overstatement seeing as many people, not only in California, but all across the nation, are decrying the skyrocketing cost of higher education. The values of the people wish for lower cost of education. In the long run, states are going to have to find a way to decrease the outrageous cost of college. There is no reason why many more American’s shouldn’t have access to a college education if they so want it: it’s good for the country and our position in todays ever globalizing world. By the state of California raising the tuition assistance for middle class families, they have taken one step, one small step, in addressing the outrageous cost of higher education in the United States.
Pérez said students from wealthy families have been able to absorb rising costs, while poorer students can rely on other aid programs. “This is the opportunity to give the middle class those same protections,” reported the LA Times.
The working relationship between Governor Jerry Brown and congress achieved other milestones. Another bill would distribute $2.5 billion over five years for energy efficiency projects at schools and community colleges, says the LA Times.
The Legislature approved a key bill to expand public healthcare as part of the federal overhaul championed by President Obama. More than 1 million additional Californians are expected to be covered by Medi-Cal, the state’s program for the poor.
California could lead the movement to help the poor and middle class by working to decrease the cost of higher education; rather than placing more burden on tax payers by raising the income ceiling on tuition assistance. It’s going to take some ingenious maneuvering, but it has to be done. Just as the President fought to get universal healthcare into the law books–we must begin to look at the cost of education, now–this is the next big hurdle.