SAN FERNANDO VALLEY, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, in response to a vote being taken Thursday by the University of California (UC) Board of Regents, to raise tuition on UC system students, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) wrote the Board, calling on them to vote “no” on such an increase.
“I ask that you reject the proposed tuition increase and call together leaders from the public sector, private sector and students to come together and work on a path forward for the UC system,” said Cárdenas. “The financial challenges faced by the UC system require an all-hands-on-deck approach. We must ensure that no one community, especially our students, carries the burden alone. ”
Cárdenas, who graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the University of California-Santa Barbara, called for the “no” vote because of the devastating impact of student loans on our economy. It is estimated that former students owe more than $1 trillion in student loans.
The stagnation of wages in our nation has made it difficult for parents who can afford to help to increase their contributions to tuition at the rate of increases in that tuition. Other students plan for college without any family assistance. Because of this, students must take on increased loan debt.
Combined with the difficulty of finding a job directly after graduation, many graduates find themselves unable to launch their adult lives, postponing purchases of homes, automobiles and family planning decisions that are the backbone of consumer spending and our economy.
“America succeeds when students from all walks of life and all income levels can attend the most prestigious universities in the world and can spend their postgraduate years chasing their dreams, rather of being chained to their loan payments into their middle age,” the letter continued. “A move to increase tuition at a beacon of public education will further exacerbate our economic problems.”
The Board of Regents will cast their final vote on the tuition increase tomorrow.
Cárdenas’ letter in full is below.
November 19, 2014
The University of California Board of Regents
Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents
1111 Franklin Street, 12th floor
Oakland, CA 94607
Dear University California Board of Regents,
I write today as both an alumni of the University of California system and a representative of University of California students. I strongly urge you to reject the proposal to raise tuition on University of California students. As a former Budget Chairman for the California State Assembly, I understand better than most the difficulty of managing rising costs with lowering revenues, but we cannot push this problem on the backs of the already struggling current student population.
Wages in America have stagnated over the past 10 years, leaving middle class American families at their limit in contributing to their children’s higher education. Despite this, tuition has consistently increased, driving students to take on unprecedented levels of debt. While families fail to gain any increase in income, the job prospects of graduates, even with a prestigious degree, have faltered due to our slow economic recovery. Without the additional help from home or the ability to earn higher wages after graduation, this tuition increase will send our students into a debt spiral, while they chase the promise of an investment in their future.
We cannot afford to have an entire generation of workers overburdened by student debt.
With more than $1 trillion of economic productivity stuck in student loans, this crisis has begun to visibly drag on our economy. Repaying debt delays economic growth-creating purchases of a first home or new car by graduates. At my alma mater, more than half of 2013 graduates held student debt. The average amount of that debt was more than $20,000. These numbers are representative of the entire system.
California has always been one of best examples of the American Dream, through the magnifying glass of Hollywood or in real world stories and people like my parents, who came to America with a 1st and 2nd grade education but worked hard and made sacrifices to grant me the opportunity to graduate from the University of California Santa Barbara and one day represent my community as a Member of Congress. We must fight to keep that Dream alive, not continue slowly strangling the economic future of our students.
America succeeds when students from all walks of life and all income levels can attend the most prestigious universities in the world and can spend their postgraduate years chasing their dreams, rather of being chained to their loan payments into their middle age. As my colleagues and I fight in Washington to keep the American Dream alive by strengthening Pell Grants and ensuring vital education programs are funded, a move to increase tuition at a beacon of public education will further exacerbate our economic problems.
Last year, Professor Bill Jacob, Chair of the UC Academic Senate, said that state money can be found “if California would roll back the 436 percent increase in spending on prisons and correctional programs since 1980 and put that funding toward the UC and California State University systems.” I fully commit to assisting with this idea, and in any other way possible, to help find solutions to the budgetary deficits that you currently face.
I will also help to identify federal sources of funds to help the system succeed. But, before we can make long term plans for the University of California system, we must reaffirm our pledge to our students that we will not raise tuition, that we will not move the ladder of opportunity away from their outstretched hands.
I ask that you reject the proposed tuition increase and call together leaders from the public sector, private sector and students to come together and work on a path forward for the UC system. The financial challenges faced by the UC system require an all-hands-on-deck approach. We must ensure that no one community, especially our students, carries the burden alone.
Member of Congress