Courtesy of the Sacramento Bee

This month, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will affect California’s college and university students and faculty on multiple levels. The bills passed during the 2011-2012 state legislative session involve: future fee increases, expansions to scholarship packages and faculty tenure.

AB 970, authored by Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), seeks to ensure transparency and accountability for the state’s working families in the UC and CSU systems. The bill requires that administrators consult with student organizations six months prior to any fee increases, while enforcing a 60-day open public forum. Functions of the bill create greater transparency at the administrative level and a wider threshold of time for communication.

The regents and trustees will be required to post a public notice indicating how the student fee revenue will be used. Impacts on accessibility, persistence and the graduation of historically underrepresented students and low-to-middle income students will be included in the notice. Sponsored by the California State Student Association and the UC Student Association (UCSA), the bill was previously opposed by the CSU and UC, but they have now developed a neutral stance on its passage.

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the amendments “made the bill workable and created significant ‘outs’ in the event certain actions—such as state budget reductions or midyear budget cuts—occur,” in a statement to the Daily Californian. Klein notes that the many components of the bill may confuse students who are not familiar with them.

“It’s imperative that students are correctly informed about their tuition increases,” said third-year UCR undergraduate Cesar Toledo. He noted that many students live on low funds, so it would be wrong for the UC and CSU to raise tuition without prior notice. “Students paying for tuition need more time to plan for future expenses,” he said.

SB 1052 and SB 1053 are two measures that will create an open source textbook library for the state’s 50 most popular undergraduate courses to use at the UC, CSU and community colleges, aiming to provide financial relief to students.

Second-year UCR student Tony Huo believes that this bill is beneficial to students, however it may be detrimental to textbook authors and publishers. “A good part of their income comes from the royalties authors earn from the textbooks they publish,” Huo said. “Their work deserves recognition as well as payment.”

SB 1052 specifically establishes the “California Open Education Resources Council,” a group of faculty members who will determine which books and resources should be made available. The latter bill creates the California Open Source Digital Library which will house web-based material while providing students, faculty and staff cheaper or even free modes of accessibility.

Written by Senator Ellen Corbett, SB 1289 helps student applicants differentiate private loans from federal loans, which are available to all students. The contents detail whether or not a rate is fixed or can change and determines rate fluctuation of private student loans on an annual basis. Effective January 2013, all public, private and independent postsecondary institutions, except the California Community Colleges, are to outline these statements on all loan applications.

According to SB 1289, over 55 percent of students from public universities graduate with $22,000 in student loan debt while 66 percent of graduates from private nonprofit institutions leave with an average debt of $28,100. Critics such as the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools argue that existing federal law already enforces parts of the bill, such as new rate changes—information that is already made publicly accessible.

Although the contents of SB 1289 apply to most universities in the state, the UC system need only abide by these conditions if they are enforced by the UC Board of Regents.

Presented by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate), AB 2132 was vetoed by Governor Brown. If passed, the CSU Board of Trustees and UC Regents would be forced to consider and reward faculty and staff based on community impacts, especially in cases of promotion, appointment or future tenure reviews. Due to its autonomy from the state government, the UC system would be “requested” to undergo such an administrative transition, while the CSU is legally obligated to participate. Governor Brown returned the bill without his signature due to his belief that “the extent to which service is considered in such decisions should be a local, campus-based decision,” continued Brown in his written statement.

The passing of state legislation will influence the future students at the UC, should the regents decide to participate in this legislation. The CSU system is subjected to all state laws.