State bill would help middle-income students afford college 

click to enlarge San Francisco State University
  • Mike Koozmin/2012 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Students attending CSU schools such as San Francisco State University could pay $3,282 a year under pending legislation; CSU students currently pay about $5,472 a year.

California college students may see some relief in their tuition if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a bill that would reduce higher education costs by roughly 40 percent for middle-class families.

If signed into law, Assembly Bill 94 would reduce tuition fees for students from families making $100,000 or less by roughly 40 percent by making scholarships available. Tuition would also be reduced by 10 percent for families making less than $150,000 per year.

The goal is to make school more affordable, especially as student loan debt has nearly doubled nationwide in the past five years, according to a report released earlier this week by Congress' Joint Economic Committee.

"For far too long, Californians have been squeezed out of a higher education by the skyrocketing tuition rates at the CSU and UC systems, forcing students to drop out of college or take on massive student debt that will negatively impact them for years, possibly decades, to come," state Assembly Speaker John Pérez said in a statement. "If California is to have a strong economy in the future, it is crucial that we have the foresight to invest in education now."

The University of California and California State University systems' tuition has steadily increased since 2007. Students at UCs are paying as much as $12,192 per year and CSU students are paying $5,472 per year. That does not include fees that differ from campus to campus.

But if the bill is signed, students could pay $7,314 in tuition at UC schools and $3,283 at CSU schools, according to Pérez's office. The changes would be effective for the 2014-15 school year.

The scholarships would be paid for by revenues from voter-approved Proposition 39, which required multistate businesses to pay income tax in California.

Relief from both California and national loan interest would be welcome by college students who have testified before UC and CSU governing boards that the cost to attend college is becoming too much.

Patrick Boyle, a San Francisco State sophomore, said if the scholarships become available he'd likely apply. The criminal justice major said he was aware of the debt he'd be in once he graduates, and he would like the help.

"It would be a huge relief," he said. "College is pretty expensive."

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