In an effort to prevent future tuition increases in the UC system, UC Berkeley Professor Brian Barsky and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader have worked towards creating a tuition-limiting initiative to put on the November state ballot. “The key idea is to use the tool of direct democracy — the initiatives that we can put on the California ballot. One potential driving force is the thousands and thousands of students in California, because mobilizing them could have significant impact,” stated Barsky in an article by the Daily Californian.
UC Riverside American Politics Professor Kevin Esterling believes the budget cuts and tuition increases have greatly impacted both the students and faculty. In the last academic year, the UC tuition has increased twice, with an 8 percent increase in November 2010 and a 9.6 percent increase in July 2011. “Students are having a harder time finding the classes they need to graduate at a time when their tuition and fees have dramatically increased, and budget cutbacks have led to staff reorganization, where fewer staff are expected to cover more responsibilities,” stated Esterling in an interview with the Highlander. Esterling further expressed his frustration with the inability of campus departments to build their programs, improve national reputations and replace colleagues who depart to other universities.
The initiative is currently a work in progress and Nader stated that a group of students and faculty were going to collaborate on and then decide the specific goals of the initiative—including the exact percentage limit that tuition can increase annually, or whether to place a total freeze on tuition increases.However, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein believes that a freeze on tuition could lead to a decrease in quality for the University of California in light of current budget cuts. “If, for example, the state continues to fund UC — or more accurately, de-fund UC at its current level — the system must come up with funds from someplace,” state Klein in an article by the Daily Californian. “We will not allow our public university system to slide into mediocrity, and this at a time when the need for a highly skilled, college-educated population is greater than ever.”
Once the specific measures of the bill have been agreed upon, University of San Diego Law Professor Richard Fellmeth plans to draft the bill and submit it to the secretary of state’s office. The deadline for the submission is March 2.
In response to the proposed initiative, Esterling stated, “The Nader-Barsky initiative only distracts from the failure of the legislature to fully fund education in this state.” Nader, however, insists in the rationale behind his place. “An initiative win would put students in a significant position of power in the state and in the state legislature. It would force a more rational focus on the allocation of the higher education budget. A freeze would basically say enough is enough,” stated Nader. “With the students having such an interest in not having their tuition going through the roof and with their parents having an even greater interest…you can qualify an initiative in a month with tables all over the campus.”