California’s public universities, reacting to severe cuts from the state legislature, are threatening to increase tuition. But this is a problem for families who don’t, after all, pay tuition once; they generally pay it over four years.

What happens if the school increases tuition next year or the year after? Many families already think they’re paying what they can to send their kids to school and don’t know how to plan for random increases due to state budget constraints.

According to an article by Kyle Daley and Ian Magruder, California college students, in the Sacramento Bee:

California can look toward other states that have found a solution for families struggling with the constant rise in fees: locked-in tuition. In 2003, knowing future cuts in education meant hikes in student fees were looming, state leaders in Illinois promised full-time undergraduate students a fixed tuition rate for four consecutive years. And if a student is required to take an extra year to complete their degree, they would be charged under the fee schedule that is equivalent to the rate paid by students who entered the university one year after them.

This “Truth-In-Tuition” law affords Illinois families and students the opportunity to effectively plan their finances for college. Unlike California’s higher education system, which has experienced tuition hikes every year for the past 10 years, students in the Land of Lincoln know what they will pay from their first day of school through the day of their graduation.

A change like this won’t do much to fix the fundamental structural problem in California, which is that it has higher education system with an inadequate funding stream to support it, but it might be a good step to help out actual Californians.

The University of California system, where both Daley and Magruder are students, has raised tuition in nine of the last 10 years.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer