Make education a right


(JACK DILLON / The DVC Inquirer)

In this year’s State of the Union Address, President Obama addressed growing problems with higher education tuition costs, namely that they are too high: “Higher education can’t be a luxury – it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.” Just about everyone can get behind this statement, but how can it become a reality? Obama’s proposal includes urging states to make “higher education a higher priority” and warning colleges with a catchy phrase: “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.”

However, California Governor Jerry Brown’s budget plan makes higher education a lower priority, decreasing funding by 4.5% compared to last year. In addition, the budget proposes yet another fee increase for community colleges, taking us from $36 per unit to $46 per unit over the summer. We as students have already sustained a $10 increase during the last academic year.

Perhaps President Obama’s threat to reduce funding schools with higher tuition rates was in reverse: if the money from taxpayers goes down, the tuition goes up.

Hopefully President Obama’s pledge to lower tuition becomes more than campaign rhetoric and translates into legislative action.

It is stated in the California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960 that the long established principle for community colleges, state universities and the University of California is to not charge state residents tuition. In fact, the only time when tuition was mentioned as a requirement was for non-resident students. To circumvent this mandate, our college district refers to tuition as “enrollment fees.”

If establishment politicians are genuinely interested in following Obama’s ideals and making “higher education a higher priority” in California, they should make education affordable. They can start by repealing Ed Code section 76300, which mandates charging student enrollment fees. They can also do themselves a big favor by implementing what has already been outlined in the California Master Plan.

If people question the financial feasibility of such actions, consider this: according to the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, Jack Scott, for every dollar invested into education, three dollars can be generated.

In addition, Governor Brown’s budget plan increases funding to corrections and rehabilitation by 11.4% from last year. In fact, at $8.7 billion, corrections funding just slightly lags behind college funding, which receives $9.4 billion.  Housing an inmate costs an average of $47,102 per year according to the Legislative Analyst Office. Imagine spending that amount of money ensuring that students stay behind desks instead of behind prison walls.

Education should be a human right granted to people willing to do the work to succeed, not a privilege for those who are affluent or a burden to those many who enter debt as a result for pursuing their ambitions. Education goes beyond the university, beyond the certificate and beyond that job interview. Education is a crucial necessity for human evolution. Without it, we are more likely to re-enact the past out of ignorance rather than move forward into the future.