Students entering the California State University system (CSU) in 2012-13 face a dramatically different fee system than those entering the state’s public university system a decade ago.
After a financial crash, a recession and the state struggling to deal with budget shortfalls, CSU tuition has nearly quadrupled for full-time undergraduate students since the 2002-03 scholastic year, according to figures on CSU’s Budget Central. Many of the tuition increases are an effort to simply maintain the quality of education in the face of budget cuts from the state, CSU public affairs assistant Liz Chapin said.
Slashes to the CSU
During the past five years, billions have been cut from the CSU system in state funding, and system administration is constantly fighting for more state funding, Chapin said.
“The CSU is continuously working toward and advocating for the state’s reinvestment in higher education,” Chapin said.
Last fall, that advocacy meant proposing a more generous CSU budget to California Gov. Jerry Brown. The Board of Trustees also put in place a possible fee increase, which would take effect if Brown opted to further cut the CSU budget.
“At that time there was quite a bit of uncertainty about the budget,” Chapin said.
The CSU has continued to work toward improving funding, despite not having its budget proposal passed last fall.
The CSU is currently advocating for Proposition 30 on the state ballot in November, which would raise some taxes to provide more revenue for public higher education.
If the proposition is not passed, the CSU budget will be cut again, Chapin said.
“The CSU faces an additional trigger cut that would make that 39 percent of state support since 2007,” Chapin said.
In the meantime, the CSU doesn’t have a crystal ball to see if budget woes will be over in the near future, Chapin said. Nonetheless, the public higher education system is still dedicated to keeping school affordable for everyone through financial aid.
Approximately 45 percent of CSU students don’t pay tuition because of grants and scholarships, Chapin said.
“The CSU is very committed to making sure that students have plenty of financial aid to them,” Chapin said.
Success for students at Cal Poly
While the CSU struggles with the state government, individual universities are developing their own system of dealing with budget cuts.
Last fall, Cal Poly administration introduced the idea of the “Student Success Fee,” a quarterly fee that would be allocated by a committee of students, faculty and administrators to help the school overcome budget cuts and enrich students’ educational experience, vice president for finance Larry Kelley told the Mustang Daily last November.
The fee would start at $160 per quarter in Fall 2012 before increasing to $210 per quarter in Fall 2013 — finally hitting $260 per quarter in Fall 2014.
After months of public forums and educational outreach in Spring 2012, students approved the Student Success Fee by 56.93 percent in an advisory vote. The fee was then approved by both Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed.
Though the majority of students who voted approved the fee, the vote was still controversial, and not all students were happy with its passage, such as mechanical engineering junior Mitchell Harvey.
“It was just frustrating to see the fees go up again,” Harvey said.
Harvey voted against the fee because he felt the description of how the money would be spent was too vague, he said.
Currently, the Student Success Fee committee is in the process of deciding how the money should be allocated, but students will be able to see the effects of the allocation when it goes into effect, Kelley said.
“I think students will see the availability of additional classes, additional lab sections,” Kelley said.
Effects may not be immediately obvious, because the fee is so new, Kelley said. But plans are underway to increase class sections in the winter and spring quarters, he said.
“We may not see as much in the fall as we do later,” Kelley said.
The one thing students should remember, when they see the additional $160 fee this fall quarter, is that the fee was proposed with students in mind, Kelley said.
“It is designed as its name implies to help them progress to degrees at Cal Poly,” Kelley said.