California government is unusual. One of the more interesting aspects of the system are its amendments. In California anyone (or more often any organization or corporation) with enough signatures can get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. And then the whole state votes on it at election time.

This particular feature has its drawbacks, for sure. On some level it’s been disastrous to higher education. California’s Proposition 13, a 1978 amendment, makes it incredibly difficult for the state to raise taxes. This is why the university system enjoys so much less funding (per student) than it had decades ago, and why students have to pay dramatically higher tuition.

But one student is fighting back, or at least he’s trying. According to an article by Larry Gordon in the Los Angeles Times:

A movement is underway to [at least keep tuition predictable for students on] California’s public campuses. A 24-year-old UC alumnus has begun gathering signatures for a proposed state constitutional amendment that would freeze undergraduate tuition at UC, Cal State and community colleges at the levels students paid when they first enrolled. Increases could occur with each incoming freshman group, the way many of the existing plans work in other states.

“It’s an unsettling and uncertain feeling when you think you are going to afford something and just skate by and suddenly somebody asks for more money you don’t have. You feel you are going to lose your investment. You feel you are going to lose your future,” said Christopher Campbell [image (intense, isn’t he?) above], the community college and UC Irvine graduate who is leading the effort. Tuition jumped substantially each of his three years at UC — totaling about 40% by 2011.

By Campbell’s amendment students would pay the same tuition amount they paid as freshmen for every year that they remain in college, as long as they make “satisfactory progress toward a degree,” as defined by the institution.

This amendment, if passed, won’t do anything to address the greater problem of funding in the UC system, but it would make it a lot easier for California families to plan and make financial decisions. [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