Fee increases are deterring potential students from California State Universities, according to a report by the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC).
The California Faculty Association (CFA), which reported that student fees within the CSU system have increased 76 percent in the last three years, supports the CPEC findings.
“We hear students saying that their friends are having to drop out and that they might have to drop out,” CFA communications director Alice Sunshine said. “Students are saying that they’re having increased difficulty paying the fees.”
Sunshine said that some CSU campuses are experiencing below-target enrollment, but recognized difficulty in documenting the reasons behind the enrollment decline. She said the CFA is encouraging CSU administrators to study the specific effects of fee increases on students.
At Cal Poly, where tuition is on the upper end of the CSU spectrum, fees are not dissuading students from enrolling, ASI President Tylor Middlestadt said. He said that since Cal Poly is usually a top-choice among applicants cost is not a major consideration upon entrance, but money becomes an issue later on in college careers.
“When cost becomes a problem is a couple of years down the road when (students) are working their way through school,” he said.
Murray Haberman, CPEC executive director, said families are “redirecting” students to less expensive institutions because of the large debts facing those with children attending a CSU.
“When you look at the total costs of going to college, you’re looking at very large bills that families are no longer paying for – they’re borrowing,” Haberman said.
In light of the findings, CPEC requested that the CSU system halt fee raises for the next five years.
An 8 percent increase passed by the CSU Board of Trustees is set to take effect in July and will be “bought out” by the Governor through state budget money, Sunshine said.
“We hope the Trustees of the CSU system will take to heart the findings and views of the CPEC on what amounts to tax increases on students,” CFA President John Travis said in a press release. “It is necessary to face the fact that fee increases are hurting our students’ chances to complete – or even to begin – their college education.”
Middlestadt said in order to support the five-year freeze he would need to be certain such action would not adversely affect students.
“I’m not a fan of fee increases, but I’m not automatically opposed to them,” he said. “I think it ultimately comes down to cost and benefit.”
Another recently released study by CPEC showed that CSU faculty salaries are almost 17 percent lower than other out-of-state counterpart schools.
The average 2005-2006 salary for a CSU professor is $86,056 compared to $105,496 for a professor at a school like the University of Colorado, Denver, the report stated.
“That number doesn’t even take into account the cost of living in California compared to other states,” Sunshine said. “The economic pressure on the teachers to support their families is also a factor. That’s one of the reasons the CSU system is losing faculty.”
Middlestadt said at a polytechnic school the problem is intensified, and that higher-paying alternatives in the fields of science and mathematics make finding teachers especially difficult.
“It is a consistent issue that is raised by our university president,” he said.
The CPEC report weighed salaries of CSU faculty against a group of 20 universities scattered throughout the nation.
CSU associate professors make close to $6,500 less than the comparison group, while assistant professors make over $5000 less and instructors make about $1100 less than the comparison group, the study indicated.
Travis said in a press release that the CSU system is “losing ground” when compared to other higher education establishments.