By Samantha Schutte, Former YAF Intern and Foundation Activist
It wouldn’t be college if kids weren’t whining about something. When it isn’t dining hall food, 8 a.m. classes, and pepper spray incidents, it’s money. For students of the ten University of California campuses, state funding has seen significant cuts and tuition is on the rise. Tuition hikes are obviously unpopular among students, with most seeing the solution as increased state funding.
The University of California Student Association states that tuition is skyrocketing because “California does not have enough money because it is not taking in enough revenue. Corporations are not paying their fair share.” The State of California certainly does have a budget problem, but I believe it is the result of excessive spending, not insufficient revenue.
A Redistributionist Proposal
Recently, students from the UC Riverside group, Fix UC, came out with a unique idea to eliminate financial burdens on students. The basic premise of the “UC Student Investment Proposal” is that students would no longer pay any tuition up front, but rather commit to contributing 5% of their post-graduation income for 20 years. The architects of this plan claim that it would triple the revenue of the UC system in 20 years.
The proposal states that transfer students would pay 1% less, while out of state and international students would pay 1% more. There would be a .5% incentive to stay and work in California and a 1% incentive to work in the public sector. Students would also have the option to include on-campus housing costs.
UC = University of Collections
Paying tuition up front would not even be an option in this proposal, so schools would have to trust all graduates to pay back into the system upon completion of their education. Given UC enrollment, it would take massive oversight to ensure that so many graduating classes of students were paying at all, let alone paying the right amount. This plan would turn the UC system into a massive collections agency.
Much like with our current tax system, many high-income graduates would likely attempt to find ways to report lower earnings to reduce payments. Low-income graduates who have little disposable income after meeting basic living expenses may fail to make payments altogether. Unemployed graduates would be allowed to skip payments, which means that the UC would have to absorb lost revenue, all while the government provides welfare benefits.
The harder you work, the more you pay
This plan does not distinguish between students who take three, four, five, or more years to graduate. A student who chooses to dilly dally, fails classes, or takes a light course load and finishes in five years faces no penalty, even though their cost of education would be considerably higher. A student who works hard to complete their degree in three years would start paying 5% of their income immediately upon employment, despite entering the workforce sooner and costing the university less. With money being no object, many students would choose to take their time, party more, and coast through their college years.
If a student were to drop out of a UC, they would be expected to pay the annual tuition rate for the time spent in the system. This is clearly an unrealistic expectation. Someone who dropped out did so for a reason and is highly unlikely to have the means to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an education they did not finish. Requiring students to invest in their own education by paying tuition up front is more likely to attract motivated individuals who will go on to make something of themselves.
Perhaps the most reasonable condition of the UC Student Investment Proposal is that students who die while attending a UC would not be expected to contribute any money; however, that leaves the schools to absorb the costs incurred during the time they did attend school.
Lucrative Majors vs. Liberal Majors
Engineering, science, math, and technology majors achieve median earnings of more than twice those of many liberal arts and humanities majors. Over the course of this 20-year, 5% payment plan, this means that a chemical engineer is likely to pay at least twice as much as someone who majored in women’s studies.
This provides an incentive for the UC system to push students into programs that lead to higher paying jobs, as a higher salary for a graduate translates into more revenue for the UC system. The proposal even addresses this important fact, stating that “Campuses will be encouraged to refrain from giving preferential treatment to departments and majors that lead students to more traditionally lucrative careers."
At current rates, four years of UC tuition would amount to just under $50,000. Under the new proposal, someone who makes anything more than $50,000 on average over their first 20 years in the workforce would pay more than they would with today’s tuition system. Liberal arts and humanities majors may benefit slightly. Engineering, science, and math majors will pay more for choosing lucrative career fields.
There are countless other holes in this ridiculous proposal. These kids need to take a course in basic economics. If this is the best that a UC student can come up with, then we have bigger problems than a budget shortfall.
If this proposal were implemented, University of California graduates would be in a real fix, alright. Punishing success is no way to build a prosperous society.
Samantha Schutte is a former Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar at Young America’s Foundation and a conservative activist at UCLA.