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Make Public Higher Education Public: Report calls for Free Tuition for California Students in the UC, CSU and Community College Systems

Reclaim Higher Education

The $48 Fix: Reclaiming California’s Master Plan for Higher Education explains how a “tuition-free” college education in California is possible today. The plan was unveiled during a California Faculty Association (CFA) news conference.

CFA President Jennifer Eagan called the $48 fix “a concrete, fair and realistic solution. California can’t afford to abandon brilliant and financially struggling students” because higher education is unaffordable and inaccessible.

The 1960 California Master Plan treated education as a public good, provided at low-cost or no-cost to students willing to do the work a higher education. Speakers noted those students moved into society as citizens and taxpayers.  But since 2000, higher education has been treated as a commodity, privatizing public education and shifting the burden to students and families. “The privatization of higher education has failed and it’s time to stop sticking it to students and their families and restore the master plan,” said Stanton Glantz, Council of University of California Faculty Associations president.

The report tears down the lament that there is no money in California—one of the largest economies in the world—to fund California’s public higher education system, which is made up of the 10-campus University of California, the 23-campus California State University, and the hundreds of California Community Colleges. The report proposes the following

  • Reclaim seats for in-state students 
    • With the Master Plan restored, California higher education would no longer feel compelled to seek to cover funding gaps with non-resident tuition. Thus, out-of-state undergraduate enrollments could return to historic levels.
  • Re-emphasize the public service mission 
    • Overall policy must deemphasize private fundraising that distorts or neglects research in the public interest. Restoring the Master Plan would allow higher education administrators to be paid as public servants administering public funds rather than as “developers” pursuing private money.
  • Make a reasonable financial commitment 
    • To fully fund projected enrollment and eliminate tuition in all three segments of California’s public higher education system will cost $9.43 billion in 2016-17. It can be covered through an annual income-tax surcharge that will:
      • Cost median-income California families $48 a year;
      • Cost two-thirds of state households less than $150 a year;
      • Cost households in the top 5 percent about $7,100 (more for multi-millionaires).
    • Add other financing options 
    • If California, like other states, adopted an estate tax and an oil severance tax, those could cover about a quarter of the entire cost of restoring the Master Plan, reducing the median household’s cost to $36.

Find the full report at

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