This week, young people in California came one step closer to achieving the long-awaited holy grail: affordable access to higher education. Both components of Assembly Speaker John A. Peréz's Middle Class Scholarship Act have passed the California State Assembly. And now it seems there is a real possibility for deep, impactful reform of our higher education system.
On Monday, the California State Assembly passed AB 1500, the funding mechanism for the scholarship, which would slash college tuition by two-thirds for families making under $150,000 a year at the CSU and UC and would provide $150 million in financial relief to our California Community College system. The bill, which pays for the scholarship in full, closes a wasteful and destructive $1 billion tax loophole that benefits only out-of-state corporations at the expense of California businesses.
The fact that both components of the legislation, AB 1500 and 1501, have passed through the Assembly is a major political accomplishment for students across the state. Even more impressive is that this victory was the result of bipartisanship, as the legislation was supported by Republican Brian Nestande and Nathan Fletcher, a former Republican who recently left the California GOP.
Qualcomm, a major U.S. telecommunication company, has been an avid supporter of the Middle Class Scholarship, even hosting an press conference in support of the bill at their San Diego headquarters. As big employers in the state of California, Qualcomm and other businesses like it, realize that a robust economic future depends on the necessary investment in California's young people and a level playing field for California businesses.
Fletcher's switch and Nestande's support for the legislation offers hope that the Middle Class Scholarship can make it through the California State Senate and to the governor's desk. It's very simple: the need for affordable access to higher education transcends political lines. The average constituent in California would be willing to invest in California's young people and the state's future, as opposed to out-of-state corporate interests.
Corporations are not people. Chrysler, General Motors, International Paper and Kimberly-Clark, who have pledged to fight the Middle Class Scholarship Act do not have mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who care about them and vote in California. But college students do and it is our job to make sure our elected officials in the California State Senate are aware of this.
This blog is cross-posted on the official website of the California College Democrats.