Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Chiang's Hail Mary Pass on Tuition

Editorial Note: Before reading the item below, it's worthwhile to give some background. First, under the top-2 primary system, John Chiang at this point needs to come in as number 2, since it appears that Gavin Newsom will likely be number 1. Polls have Chiang way down. So to get to number 2, he needs to make himself more visible and attractive. Second, up to this point in his career he has positioned himself as a fiscal conservative. He has served as state controller and treasurer and in both roles tended to echo Jerry Brown's cautions about budgetary matters. Some blog readers may recall the episode, back when state budgets were very precarious, when Chiang as controller refused to issue paychecks to the legislature for not passing a budget on time.

If Chiang made it to the general election (if he came in number 2 in the primary), he would have to revert to his old persona to pick up Republicans, independents, etc., who would see him as preferable to Newsom. Newsom, as an ex officio regent, always opposed tuition increases and Chiang would have a hard time trying to out-Newsom Newsom on that issue.

In short, Chiang's current position on tuition appears to be his Hail Mary pass to get into the number 2 position in the primary. Since he is termed out as treasurer and as state controller, he has nowhere to go but up (or out).  
From EdSource: Gubernatorial candidate and State Treasurer John Chiang wants to roll back a decade of tuition increases at the University of California and the Cal State systems, reducing those costs by more than 40 percent, while also providing two years of free community college.

Chiang, who previously was state controller, said he would use general fund revenues, money from cutting out government waste, tax revenues from legal marijuana sales and other sources to fund those savings for in-state students at the two- and four-year public campuses. “There’s a lot of pockets where we can find money so we can invest in education,” the Democrat said Monday evening at the second in a series of forums sponsored by the Campaign for College Opportunity for gubernatorial candidates to discuss higher education issues.

Chiang has held the elected state treasurer’s position since 2015 and before that was state controller starting in 2007. His bid to become governor has not caught fire although he has some admirers for his financial skills and wide grasp of complicated issues he displayed Monday. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California placed him in fifth place among the candidates in the June primary, with support from only 6 percent of the poll respondents. Still, Chiang ranks second in fundraising, with about $9 million in hand, topped only by frontrunner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $19 million.

Tuition and mandatory systemwide fees for California residents are now $12,630 at UC and $5,742 at Cal State, and both systems are considering hikes for next fall. But if Chiang has his way, those would go back to the 2008-09 levels — just before very large tuition increases were adopted in response to state revenue cutbacks in the Great Recession. Such a reversal would bring annual undergraduate tuition to $7,066 for UC and $3,048 for Cal State, but could require upwards of $2 billion more in state funding a year, according to some estimates.

At the forum in Los Angeles, Chiang added that he wants state funding to be large enough so that more California students are admitted at the public universities of their first choice and are not squeezed out by out-of-state students, who pay much higher tuition. While he did not offer specifics on that goal, his website states that current caps on out-of-state enrollment at UC still permit too many residents outside of California to claim a spot at the already packed system and that he’d tighten the limits.

(Nearly 17 percent of the roughly 217,000 UC undergraduates are out-of-state students, but that figure is higher at some campuses like Berkeley and Los Angeles. At the CSU, about 5 percent of the roughly 430,000 undergraduates are out-of-state students.)

“When parents and other taxpayers have paid all through the life of that child with investment with the hope and opportunity and belief that their child has better access to the University of California or CSU than an out-of-state student, if you want to establish trust, you better keep that trust. That will be my priority,” he told the audience at the headquarters of the LA84 Foundation, the youth sports organization that grew out of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Chiang on Monday also promised the audience that he would make the first two years of community college free for students. Later, without offering many details, he told EdSource in an interview that community college should be free for those years “even without aid,” meaning that any other forms of financial aid could be used for other costs like books, transportation and living costs...

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