Free College for Californians?

FreeCalifornia

California has a new ballot initiative: free college. Really. According to an article by Katy Murphy in the Oakland Tribune:

The proposed constitutional amendment, researched and written a year ago as part of a senior class project at Life Academy and Oakland Unity High School, would make state university tuition-free for full-time, in-state students who maintain a 2.7 GPA or perform 70 hours of community service each year. Californians who earn more than $250,000 a year in taxable income would subsidize this additional cost through higher income taxes. The students say 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.

This is not at all likely to become law, especially since the general direction of state universities in California has been to move in the other direction, reducing state funding for the institutions and making college dramatically more expensive for students.

Due to California’s unique legal structure, virtually anyone can propose ballot initiatives to changes the state’s constitution. But it’s unlikely. The number of signatures required and the very short time (five months) available to gather signatures means that actual grassroots efforts virtually never become law.

California, where 10 percent of America’s college students live, has steadily been cutting state aid to higher education, in part to address other state budget issues. As a result, tuition at California’s public colleges rose 21 percent last year.

The initiative is called College for California. Check out the group’s Facebook page here. The group now has about 1,000 signatures. [Image via]

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