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Higher Education Funding Crisis

April 09, 1993

John Brooks Slaughter (Commentary, March 22) is right: Students must come first in any new California Master Plan for higher education. But he's dead wrong when he says that public university "tuition costs should be levied on the principle of the ability to pay. "

Taxes should be levied progressively, but the government programs and services that those taxes fund must provide equal benefits at equal cost to all Californians--rich and poor alike. If this equity of benefits is not preserved, all government services become nothing more than expensive public charities, which provide the least benefit to those who must pay the most for them.

The Slaughter Principle combined with the state fiscal crisis is a sure prescription for class warfare as politicians and bureaucrats scramble to discover ever more ways to look frugal by splitting costs from benefits. The possibilities are almost endless. How about highway tolls levied on a sliding scale depending on resale value of our cars? Or state park fees that depend on whether we'd otherwise spend the night at the Hilton or Motel 6? Or elementary school surcharges for parents who could afford to send their children to private school but don't. Or . . . .

J.L. JONSSON

Long Beach

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