Bonta Introduces Bill to Study Universal and Tuition-Free Higher Education in California

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

(Sacramento, CA) – Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) has introduced AB 1038, which will create a Blue-Ribbon Commission to develop a pathway for implementing universal, tuition-free higher education in California.

At a time when there are near-continuous tuition increases, Assemblymember Bonta’s bill will design a system that would allow all Californians to have access to earn a college degree regardless of their income.

“The impact that a free and universal higher education system can have on our state is tremendous,” said Bonta. “California’s higher education system stands out for its high quality, but I know we can do far more to ensure affordable access for all.”

According to a 2014 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report, in-state tuition at both the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) has more than tripled over the last 20 years.

“For many students and their families, the cost of college is insurmountable,” Bonta said. “And for those students who are able to attend and graduate, many are saddled with crushing amounts of student debt. This system must be changed.”

Based on current enrollment and graduation rates, the PPIC also projects that by 2030, the state’s workforce will need 1.1 million additional college graduates to meet expected economic demands.

AB 1038, which is joint authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), will develop a roadmap to move California’s public universities and colleges to be universal and tuition-free by the year 2030.

“California’s system of higher education is one of the greatest in the world, but we cannot rest on past success,” said Chiu. “We need innovative approaches to ensure that our colleges and universities are affordable and accessible to the diverse communities that define our state.”

California is one of only two states nationwide to lack a comprehensive oversight or coordinating body for post-secondary education according to the PPIC. Without a public entity to engage with the community, there is an absence for a long-term plan and democratic decision-making process for post-secondary higher education.

“While I understand the costs of obtaining a degree go well beyond tuition, I believe the timing is right to begin the discussion for what our State can do moving forward. California should at least start studying the feasibility of that happening in our state,” Bonta concluded.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro and is the Assistant Majority Leader and Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus.