SACRAMENTO — The cost of attending California’s public universities and colleges has skyrocketed in the last 25 years.

“Whereas nationwide tuition and fees at public universities over the last five years have risen on average by 28 percent, the average increase at UC campuses is an astounding 73.1 percent and, at Cal State campuses a still more astounding 83.8 percent,” according to Real Clear Politics.

In order to chip away at the problem, Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, announced this week that he has introduced a bill to decrease the costs of college for students majoring in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Assembly Bill 51 would create a pilot program for certain college majors to earn Bachelor’s Degrees costing no more than $10,000, and complete college in 18 months.

AB 51 would streamline the process by which students graduate from college through better coordination with high schools, community colleges and the California State University system. Logue told me that students would have access to accredited college courses while still in high school. “This is where the savings comes in,” he said. “By the time they graduate high school, many students can already have much of the general education courses out of the way and move on to the advanced courses.”

Logue said he is very concerned about California’s young people because, according to California Community College records, 75 percent of community college students drop out. And too many young men aren’t even choosing to go to college. “They don’t see a future in most of the course work offered anymore,” Logue told me.

Program tests

The legislation selects three different parts of the state as a test for the program’s coordination.  Among the measures to be used to help students achieve a degree on time are unlimited Advanced Placement course credits in high school, more access to community college credit in high school and priority enrollment in community colleges after high school.

“This would allow a student to graduate with a B.A. Degree within 18 months and get right into the work force,” Logue said. “Jobs in STEM fields are good, high-paying jobs of which many are currently filled by candidates from overseas due to the lack of American students graduating in those fields. I hope this pilot program will provide more incentives to graduate students in those areas. This is a good, common-sense piece of legislation that I hope both Democrats and Republicans can rally around.”

Real Clear Politics also noted, “While turning away students and seeking billions for new buildings, California institutions are significantly under-using classroom and laboratory space. And, absent drastic reform, in little more than a decade the Cal State and UC systems are unlikely to be able to meet their obligations to faculty retirement programs.”

The education crisis in California has created other problems as well, including the loss of many of California’s technology and trade schools, and a shortage of students ready for jobs in the STEM fields — just what Logue’s bill would address.

“I hope my bill will be the beginning of a revolution to the very pressing issue of the costs of college that students face these days,” Logue added. “We cannot expect today’s students to have a higher standard of living than their parents if they continue to leave college saddled with so much debt.”

Although Democrats now hold a supermajority in the Assembly, as well as the Senate, Republicans still can play an important role by boosting reform ideas. For moderate Democrats concerned about the state’s low-performing schools, AB 51 could be a platform for change.

Crossposted on CalWatchDog