On March 20, the California State University system announced that they would freeze enrollment at all 23 campuses for the spring 2013 semester; eight schools plan to accept a small number of community college transfer students. In addition, for the fall 2013 admissions process, most schools will place almost all applicants on a wait list and cancel early admissions.
The schools plan to accept applicants for the fall if the proposed tax increase by Governor Jerry Brown on the November ballot passes. If the measure fails, it will have a significant effect on the state education budget, and enrollment numbers for the fall and beyond may be significantly reduced and downsized. For Mt. SAC students, this announcement is one of many reflecting the increasing difficulty involved in reaching educational goals and successfully transferring to a four-year institution or earning an associate degree in a timely manner.
Han Li “Aaron” Chow, 21, biology major, has been attending Mt. SAC on and off for the past few years. Although he is not planning to transfer by the spring or fall of 2013, he said he is wary about the possibility of major state budget cuts, and therefore his future educational prospects, if the tax measures fail. Chow has had some issues with getting the classes he wants, even after accounting for priority registration, adding classes and dealing with wait lists.
“I took Math 71 in the fall of 2009 and I wasn’t able to complete the class,” he said. “I was new to college, took too many units, and didn’t manage my time properly.” Chow tried registering for it later, but he said he received an error stating that he was no longer qualified for the class. He has not yet attempted to retake Math 71 or another math class.
“I realize that I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain, but these changes can be frustrating,” he said.
Chow also had difficulty shortly after he joined Mt. SAC, when he missed the deadline for spring semester registration in 2009. “It was partially my fault due to ignorance,” he said. “But I also believe that the college didn’t make it clear when the new classes would start, because they didn’t mail the class registration pamphlets that semester. If they did, I didn’t receive them.”
The CSU system has offered some incentive for voters to pass Brown’s tax initiative in November. A March 25 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that 64 percent of those surveyed support the measure. Brown’s measure would raise the sales tax by a quarter-cent, down from a half-cent, and increase income taxes on individuals earning over $300,000 by two percent and $500,000 by three percent. According to a March 14 article by the Los Angeles Times, he added to the load on high-income earners in order to compromise with a group who gathered signatures for a competing “millionaires’ tax” on the ballot, which proposed closing the budget gap solely through heavier income taxes on those making over $1 million.
However, there is yet another tax increase plan that will compete with Brown’s. Attorney Molly Munger has proposed a tax plan that primarily focuses on reversing spending cuts to public education.
According to an April 2 op-ed article by Jim Newton of the L.A. Times, Munger’s proposal is more balanced than Brown’s. “Munger’s proposal, by contrast, avoids sales taxes altogether and boosts state income taxes by 1% across the board,” Newton wrote. “Taxpayers at all levels would have to chip in. That’s more stable and more widely distributed than Brown’s plan.”
Chow said that he would prefer Munger’s plan if he were to choose one. He added that he would prefer taxes on the rich as the primary source of additional revenue to reduce the state’s budget deficit.
“I may be speaking out of turn, but I’m quite sure the richer classes won’t mind an extra 1% income tax increase,” he said. The priority registration system is one cause of concern for Mt. SAC students, and one that is difficult to fix given the number of students who are applying for classes.
“I believe they should change the priority system but more based on attendance rather than grades,” Chow said. “Some people just aren’t that smart, and in all fairness, they should still have a chance at priority registration in classes.”
He added that students who have stopped attending Mt. SAC should lose their priority more quickly. “The people that have been inactive for a long period of time should not get the higher priority registration dates; I know this because friends who have already transferred to UCs have told me that their registration dates for Mt. SAC are sometimes even earlier than mine.”
For current and future students, the path remains unclear. But most of what they can do centers on remaining studious in class and staying prepared in terms of transfer preparation, scholarships, and other opportunities.
“I may not speak for everyone, but I’m pretty flexible,” Chow said. “I know life is just weird and things usually never go your way, so I have already started looking at private and out-of-state alternatives.”
– Matthew Medina