Illustration by Leigh Douglas

Every California student has felt the economic squeeze of increased tuition prices which may continue to rise. With the new bill AB 970, that squeeze may continue, but now students can see it coming.

AB 970 requires California regents and trustees inform the public and students before any increases in tuition fees. It also requires that regents and trustees create annual reports on their spending and provide them to the Legislature. Additionally the bill requires that Regents and Trustees consult with students about any fee increase in order to “justify tuition increases, identify possible alternatives and discuss ways to mitigate the impact on under-resourced families,” according to a press release on AB 970 put out by the University of California Student Association (UCSA), an organization of student governments and UC students.

In an age of open information, AB 970 is a step in the right direction.

Open information is fueling free online education for all, helping researchers solve difficult problems.

Students deserve to know what burdens will be coming and what their money will be spent on. To students who are increasingly suffering under the weight of tuition, AB 970 will hopefully lead to more affordable higher education. The bill will give students time to prepare for the new financial increases, and a chance to respond.

“Students simply want to have the opportunity to defend their education and themselves in the process,” said Raquel S. Morales, a member on the UCSA board and a student at UC San Diego, in a press release put out by UCSA.

Even still, AB 970 is just a part of the answer. More information about fee increases is welcome, but the problem is not a lack of information, but the fees themselves. Students and their families will still feel the pressure of tuition even if they know it’s coming. AB 970 can only be effective if it is coupled by a change in tuition fees; a change that can be supported by students and the public, but that has to come from the regents and the state.

For years the state of California has decreased its investment in higher education, leaving the universities and its students to shoulder the costs. Since 1990 per-student state funding of UC’s has dropped by 40% according to “Best Laid Plans: The Unified Promise of Public Higher Education in California,” a report put out by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). And that number looks to grow as the nation continues to wade through the economic recession, and especially as the state needs money to pay for the costs of the aging baby-boomer generation.

So, while AB 970 may give hope to many, as it arguably should, it is not a cause for student celebration. The state, the regents, and the students still have a long road ahead of them to lower the $13,000 in state tuition.

Students need solutions to their increasing debt and tuition problems, and the solution will require action by the state, UC system, and the students themselves. AB 970 isn’t that solution, but by forcing transparency, it is an important tool in reaching it.