SAN FRANCISCO - Tough economic times have taken a toll on college students. In the last five years, enrollment at California’s two public university systems, University of California and California State University, have dropped by one-fifth. These campuses have limited enrollment, have cut staffing and have raised tuition to cope with hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts.
Maricon Malimban, a 20-year-old junior at San Francisco State University (SFSU) had to get a $6,000 student loan this year because her parents cannot afford to pay soaring tuition costs.
"I really hope our situation does not get worse. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for the loans yet," she said.
Michelle Marcaida, 18, feels lucky that she was able to get a full scholarship. "I have to focus on getting good grades and hoping that when I graduate, I can get a good job," the freshman said.
Another SFSU freshman however is not as lucky. Mario Esquivel, 18, said his parents are both working, his mother as a nurse and his father as a janitor. His family’s annual income is under $150,000, but over the amount allowed to qualify for financial aid.
"It’s really difficult. I see my parents working so hard. I want to help them as much as I can. But I am not able to get loans that other people are getting because my family is working harder and making more money," Esquivel said.
California lawmakers are hoping to come to the aid of struggling college students by passing the Middle Class Scholarship Act, which hopes to help students like Esquivel who are not eligible for financial aid.
The scholarship would cover two-thirds of the fees for students, saving them thousands of dollars a year.
The proposal is opposed by big out-of-state corporations, because it closes a tax break of nearly $1 billion every year.
Assembly member Fiona Ma, an advocate for the bill, said: "I’ve been a strong supporter of making sure that young people have all the opportunities that they can have. Education is the great equalizer. Nobody can take your educational degrees away from you."
California lawmakers said it’s about time the government invests back into the state public education system. California funding for higher education has drastically dropped $1.6 billion less than a decade ago. In fact, the state now spends more on correctional facilities than public education.
The Middle Class Scholarship Act has been passed in the California Assembly, and is now headed to the State Senate for a vote.