MERCED — A bill introduced by state Sen. Anthony Cannella would freeze tuition for the California Community College, California State University and University of California systems.
Cannella, R-Ceres, said Senate Bill 58 would freeze tuition for seven years, during the same time that Proposition 30 is in effect.
Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative approved by voters in November increased sales tax by one-fourth of a cent for four years and will increase income taxes for those earning more than $250,000 annually for seven years.
The increases are supposed to help provide relief for public education institutions that are struggling with funding.
Cannella said the proposition implied that higher education would be OK, however, that's not guaranteed. "It's just a promise, it's not a requirement," he said.
Cannella made a stop at UC Merced on Thursday to talk to a group of students about his piece of legislation.
His bill hasn't got a committee assigned, but it will in about a month, he said. Although the legislation is in its early stages, Cannella hopes it will get the support from his colleagues.
When there are budget cuts, Cannella said, the institutions go to the students and increase their fees. He said that makes it difficult for students and their families to plan.
UC Merced senior Baltazar Cornejo, who attended Cannella's event, said students like the idea of the bill, but they have some concerns with the way it's written now.
"We have a lot of questions," the 21-year-old senior from Modesto said. "What's going to happen after the seven-year freeze?"
Students are concerned about seeing huge tuition increases after the legislation is lifted seven years later, Cornejo said. They are also concerned about how the UC system might react to budget cuts, but couldn't raise tuition.
"Are they going to cut programs?" asked Cornejo, who is part of the student government.
Students would feel more comfortable if the bill was rewritten to include language that addresses their concerns, Cornejo said.
UC Merced student Ariana Ruiz attended the event. She said tuition is already too high and increases are a burden for students, especially for those who come from middle-class families.
Freezing tuition would be something positive, said Ruiz, who's from Patterson.
"I feel like it would be a good thing because you would be able to know what you would be paying in the future," she said.
However, she thought Cannella was reluctant to answer questions about what would happen after the seven years.
Cannella said students are "still trying to grasp what the bill would look like."
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.