Thurmond Commits to Sponsoring Student-Written Bill After College Affordability Town Hall

Press Release

San Diego, Calif. – FRIDAY, OCT. 5, 2018 – Assemblymember Tony Thurmond hosted a “College Affordability Town Hall” on Thursday night at UC San Diego with student leaders representing the UC, CSU and community colleges, as well as student aid staff.  

Before the event, Thurmond held a virtual press conference with student journalists from across the state.  Prompted by questions on how he would address issues like higher education funding, financial aid, food insecurity and affordable housing for students, Thurmond put out a call to students statewide.

“I want to challenge California’s college students to write a bill for the state legislature on the issue of college affordability, and I will sponsor that bill as Superintendent of Public Instruction,” said Thurmond.  “I’m proud of the work my colleagues and I have done in the state legislature to continually push the Governor to increase higher education funding, but it’s not enough. I hear big ideas from students all the time – it’s time to push through a big idea to create real change in the costs to get a college degree in California.”

Thurmond and panelists at the town hall emphasized that in addition to tuition, students are strapped for basic needs like housing and food, and often struggle to receive adequate financial aid.

“Tonight we were reminded of the complexities that surround the issue of college affordability,” said Alejandro Lomeli, CA Student Aid Commission representative.  “Students today face a myriad of challenges that stem from inequitable FAFSA completions, varying yearly investment levels and a misunderstanding of the total cost of college.”

Nineteen percent of UC students reported “very low” food insecurity.  More than one in 10 CSU students reported experiencing homelessness at least once in the past year.  One third of California Community College students reported homeless or trouble finding stable housing, even before the state passed legislation last year to make the first year of community college free.

Thurmond, who attend Temple University, a public university in Philadelphia, and served as student body president, said that he himself could not always afford enough food when he was a college student.

“It’s really unique for state leaders to take the opportunity to hear directly from students on what our needs are,” said Caroline Siegel-Singh, UC San Diego student leader.  “I hope that in the future folks in Sacramento can work on addressing the total cost of attendance and ensuring the basic needs of our campus communities are being met.”

Every panelist present voiced support for more state funding for higher education, which has declined from 18% to 12% of the state budget in the past 50 years. In the 1970s, one attendee noted, college tuition was free.

“I took away from this event that there are allies more than ever before that are willing to fight for higher education and to continue to prioritize educating the future of the state,” said Michael Wiafe, San Diego State University student leader.  “The state should prioritize education and continue to push for better ways to support public institutions of higher education in the holistic view of student success and the needs of the students.”

Thurmond said:

“I think we have to start by making the second year of community college free and ensuring that funding allocated this year for student basic needs is being used as intended.  After that, we need to create a new permanent funding source to fund higher education in our state. My top priority as California Superintendent will be increasing education funding to create the world-class, equitable public education system that California, as the 5th wealthiest economy in the world, can afford.”

Thurmond is endorsed by Senator Kamala Harris, civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, the California Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood, Equality California, the Sierra Club and the California Labor Federation.  He will be on the ballot for the November 6, 2018, election.

To get in touch with Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, email