TURLOCK -- Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen wants to freeze tuition rates for incoming and transferring California State University students to help make higher education more affordable.
The Modesto Republican has introduced legislation that would guarantee in-state freshmen to the 23 California State University campuses a fixed tuition rate for the next four years, as well as a fixed two-year rate for those transferring.
Olsen said Assembly Bill 138 is a way to address escalating CSU tuition costs. She said that since 2008, CSU tuition has shot up 63 percent.
"When I go and buy a house, if I sign into a fixed mortgage, I know what the monthly payment will be and know if I can afford that investment," she said. "I think we owe that same level of certainty to students and parents about their higher education."
As the former assistant vice president for communications and public affairs at California State University, Stanislaus, Olsen said she has seen firsthand what tuition hikes can mean for students and parents.
"Halfway through a program, a student working for me had to drop out altogether because she couldn't afford the tuition increase she didn't see coming," she said.
Olsen said she had considered introducing the legislation last year, but said the timing was not right because the state was struggling with its budget and Proposition 30. Now she said it appears the state is back on track and ready to invest in education.
Dave Tonelli, who holds Olsen's old job as associate vice president for communications and public affairs at the Turlock university, said the CSU Board of Trustees and chancellor have not had a chance to evaluate the legislation yet to make a comment.
"We are grateful for Assemblywoman Olsen's interest in affordability and her support of our students," he said. "Moving forward, the CSU system will be evaluating AB 138 and other potential ways to meet the assemblywoman's goals."
Olsen has two Republican co-authors who have joined her in support of the bill. She said she is talking with her Democratic colleagues and hopes to garner bipartisan support.
It will be at least 30 days before her legislation can be heard in committee, she said. Until then, she urges those who support the bill to call her office and send letters sharing their personal struggles with rate increases.
Incoming students such as Ceres resident Venus Lopez said Olsen's bill could be a big help to them. The 19-year-old Modesto Junior College student plans to transfer to CSU Stanislaus in the fall.
"Right now, I'm looking for summer jobs and applying for scholarships to pay for it. But I think the bill could he really helpful because tuition always varies, and usually it goes up," she said.
For more, contact Olsen's office at (209) 576-6425 or (916) 319-2012.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.