UC President Janet Napolitano and University of California Student Association (UCSA) President Judith Gutierrez both released statements against HR 4508 (PROSPER Act), a federal bill that would cut funding for higher education by 2019.
On June 11, UC President Napolitano released a joint statement with the signed support of the chancellors of the California State University (CSU) and California Community College systems, calling on members of Congress to vote no on the PROSPER Act and citing its reduction of federal oversight and financial aid programs.
“Our public institutions of higher education are committed to providing affordable, accessible, and equitable pathways to success for our students and increasing the well-being of all Californians,” the joint statement said. “Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with many of the changes proposed in the PROSPER Act, which we believe would undermine our efforts and increase college costs for California’s students and families.”
UCSA President Judith Gutierrez released her own statement on June 13 condemning the bill, citing UCSA’s mission to advocate for students and the negative financial impact the bill would have on UC students.
“It is the UC Student Association’s mission to advocate on behalf of current and future students for the accessibility, affordability, and quality of the UC [system],” said her statement. “In order for us to achieve our mission of making higher education more affordable and accessible, we strongly condemn legislation and policies that increase financial burdens on students and hinder their ability to complete their degrees.”
The PROSPER Act would reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 with some changes. It eliminates programs like the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG), subsidies for student loan debt, the Grad PLUS loan, and funding for minority serving institutions.
According to the UC system, over 40 percent of undergraduates receive Pell Grants, a SEOG program which would be eliminated under the PROSPER Act. Ending the subsidized loan program would increase student debt by an estimated $70 million a year and make college inaccessible for low-income students.
In addition, provisions of the bill could exempt sexual assault survivors’ counselors from the Clery Act, a mandated report of crime statistics in public universities. UCSD’s Crime Report is already misrepresentative of sexual assaults, but this bill would deflate the number of sexual assaults reported and cover up the extent of sexual assault in higher education.
“This legislation would attempt to strip important processes in place to protect all students on campus,” said California Representative Susan Davis.
The joint statement also says that the PROSPER Act would result in a loss of $255 million in funds specifically for serving minority STEM education programs each year. Five UC campuses meet the qualifications to be Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). UC San Diego is considered an emerging HSI—an institution that is on its way to becoming an HSI, but does not yet meet the criteria.
“The PROSPER Act does nothing but add more financial barriers for UC students,” said former ASUCSD Legislative Director for the Office of External Affairs Miguel Angel Martinez Jr. “This legislation pushes more financial burdens onto UC students; nothing in this act is beneficial.”
Ethan Coston is an Assistant News Editor for The Triton. You can follow him @Ethan4Books