Members of the California Faculty Association (CFA) discussed possible solutions to the current dire financial straits of the nation’s education system on Tuesday.
Faced with yearly tuition hikes and funding cuts, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education is hoping to get the nation’s education system back on its feet by circulating three proposals that deal with the financial problems of California’s public colleges.
Alice Sunshine, communications director for the CFA, organized the phone conference between Robert Samuels, a University of California faculty member, Stanton Glantz, a professor at UC San Francisco, and Rudy Fichtenbaum, a professor of economics at Wright State University.
The group discussed specific aspects of three financial proposals, which deal with eliminating certain regressive tax breaks, “resetting” higher education funding and implementing a small tax on selected financial transactions.
Samuels outlined his plan, stating that California could have free higher education by eliminating regressive tax breaks for the wealthy and re-allocating certain government expenses toward education.
“If you add up how much (the nation) now spends on federal aid, state aid, institutional aid, tax credits, tax shelters and subsidizing student loans, we have more than enough money,” said Samuels. “The problem is we spend too much on tax breaks and aid for the wealthy and too much on ‘for-profit’ schools that graduate very few students.”
Samuels said that studies done by the U.S. Treasury Department have found that wealthy citizens are using tax shelters to protect finances that could be used to contribute to the nation’s education system.
The money that is being protected by tax loopholes, according to Samuels, can be used to help make higher education free to the public.
Glantz’s proposal is that state funding for higher education should be reset to a past state funding level.
His research was done by using California as an example of how resetting state funding would cost very little for the taxpayers and would yield major help for the University of California and California State University systems, as well as community colleges.
Glantz stated that the financial problem of the education system lies within a lack of political push to help higher education get more funding, not with a lack of solutions.
One of the major problems facing financial institutions is the feeling that budget problems are too difficult to solve, according to Glantz.
“Because the problem is impossible to solve, the institutions and leadership of the institutions who should be solving it have sort of given up,” said Glantz. “I think what these three papers are showing is that it isn’t impossible.”
Fichtenbaum explained in his proposal that higher education could be given more funding if the government would implement a tax on certain financial transactions.
Fichtenbaum said the transactions in his proposal would include stocks, bonds and foreign exchange transactions, among others. These taxes would range from two-tenths of a percent to about a half of a percent, he said.
Glantz said public endorsement is needed and hoped that their proposals would push people to ask presidents of major universities if they would be willing to back any of the proposals.
Fichtenbaum also commented on the possibility of passing his proposed taxes, but said there is always a chance for his proposal since there have been similar tax laws proposed in recent years.
Fichtenbaum cited the Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Street Bill of 2009 as a piece of legislation that is similar to his current proposal to fund higher education.
“It’s really just a question of beginning to build some public support for saying that some of these kinds of taxes are going to begin to provide funding for some of the (countries’) priorities and higher education being one of those,” Fichtenbaum said.