The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees Committee on Finance approved a two-step tuition increase Wednesday, Nov. 3, including a 5 percent increase effective Jan. 1 and an additional 10 percent tuition increase starting Fall 2011.
The tuition increase is necessary to provide quality service to current and additional students, which equal 30,000, admitted to the CSU system for winter and spring terms, said Erik Fallis, the media relations specialist for the CSU Chancellor’s Office.
“We’re going to be adding students,” Fallis said. “We know we need to provide adequate classes and services for them as well as our existing students. That is why the difficult decision to raise fees was recommended and the Board of Trustees adopted it. It’s to get us to the level that we need to be at to support our existing and new students.”
The governor’s initial budget proposed in January assumed a 10 percent fee increase to provide the CSU system with a certain level of revenue to allow it to continue to grow. The governor proposed 10 percent, and the legislation approved 5 percent. However, the 5 percent state funding was not present when the budget was fully adopted and signed in October. This left the CSU system $64 million short of the budget plan for 2010-11, Fallis said.
According to Fallis, the CSU system is at the same level of state financial support it was five years ago even though today the CSU system has approximately 25,000 more students.
“We took a $625 million hit,” Fallis said. “We were restored $260 million, which we’re glad to have, but it’s not a full restoration.”
The second phase of the tuition increase would render approximately $121.5 million to continue to provide for the enrollment increase, Fallis said.
“We’re relying on one-time federal stimulus money — about $106 million — to provide adequate classes to our new and existing students,” Fallis said. “That money goes away at the end of this year, and we don’t know if the state will be able to replace it. If we do not receive the amount of funding we are requesting from the legislature, that means we need to find a more stable source of funding and unfortunately that means student fees.”
According to Fallis, the CSU has two primary sources of funding — state support lends about two-thirds of overall financial support and student fees cover the remaining third.
The Board of Trustees adopted a budget request of the state which asks the governor and the legislature to “buy out” the fee increase.
“We are hopeful the state will prioritize the money to buy out the tuition increase,” Fallis said. “If they do so, the CSU will rescind the fee increase and students will not be required to pay it.”
Due to financial aid, half of all undergraduate students in the CSU system will not pay the raised tuition fees. Generally, if an undergraduate dependent student and their family makes $70,000 or less, the financial aid award would be equal to or greater than the tuition level. Even if the income is more than that, a student still can qualify for some financial aid.
“For the Cal Grant it’s equivalent to whatever the tuition level is, so if tuition goes up, the grant goes up,” Fallis said. “One of the most important things for students to do once they apply to the university is to fill out the FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) because a lot of the students who think they don’t qualify for aid may qualify.”
Therefore, the tuition increase will directly impact students that do not receive financial aid.
Student Trustee Nicole Anderson voted against the tuition increase and was the only committee member to do so. Since starting school in 2007 and now with the 5 percent and the 10 percent increase, her fees have increased over 70 percent. She said the tuition hike impacts middle class students.
“While we still remain an extremely affordable education system, especially nation-wide, I feel if we continue at this rate it’s not going to be obtainable for a lot of students,” Anderson said. “It’s the students that don’t qualify in the bottom third where the fees are going back to the students with the help of financial aid, and the top one-third because generally with their financial status they’re able to make due with it — that middle third is really getting pushed out of the system.”
Although Anderson opposed the two-step tuition increase, she is supportive because it allocates time for students to plan for the 10 percent tuition increase for the 2011-12 academic year. She also said it will give students more power to advocate at the capital by asking legislature to buy out the fee increase.
“However, I voted no because it’s a very risky situation either way because the state budget is extremely bad right now,” Anderson said. “It will be difficult to get them to buy it out.”
Anderson said she hopes to work in conjunction with the California State Student Association (CSSA) and the Chancellor’s Office to look at the CSU system for alternative ways for funding besides the state budget.
“It’s going to be a very complicated (process), whichever way it ends up being, but I think we need to look at a way besides just increasing fees to build and support the CSU system where the state is lacking in funding,” Anderson said.
Despite her opposition with the tuition increase, Anderson said she appreciates how the money will work directly to benefit students. This includes enrolling 30,000 more students, offering 3,000 new course sections system-wide and restoring student services.
“In previous years it was very frustrating, at least for me as a student advocate, to see my fees going up just to maintain the status quo,” Anderson said. “No one wants to see tuition go up but at least if it’s going up we’re getting more for our money.”
President of the CSSA Chris Chavez said he was also disappointed with the raised tuition. He, along with fellow members of CSSA, wrote to the Chancellor and Board of Trustees to publicly state their opposition.
“We (the CSSA) know the CSU was in a tough position” Chavez said. “We are happy to hear they are going to commit this money to course stability and student services, but in the end the unfortunate thing is this fee increase pulls away from the master plan of higher education in California.”
Chavez said he plans to continue with his message, pointing out to legislature how much the increased tuition impacts students. He also wants to work with the CSU system to find alternatives to fee increases, he said.
“We’re moving backward not forward,” Chavez said. “We’re seeing students paying more for the cost of instruction which is completely contrary to the promise that Californians were made when this master plan was drawn up. I do think we need to start thinking critically here and look for any way possible that will help out our students.”
Cal Poly students and staff have mixed views toward the increased tuition. Philosophy senior Robert Cameron said he does not approve of the raised fees.
“Whoopdy-do, now I get to pick up more hours of work,” Cameron said. “It’s coming out of my pocket to pay for students that have been planned incorrectly for. They get one-time stimulus money, so they welcome aboard a whole bunch of new students who are obviously going to be here for more than a year.”
Head of Access and Interlibrary Services Judy Drake has worked at the Robert E. Kennedy Library for 35 years and graduated from Cal Poly in 1972. She said she is disappointed with the tuition increase.
“I’m sad they continue to have to do this,” Drake said. “To me education should be a right not a privilege. It’s too bad that politics have to play such a big part in education.”
Despite beliefs, the members of the Board of Trustees understand students’ concerns, Fallis said.
“Raising tuition is not something the CSU system does lightly but when it becomes a question of whether or not we provide quality access or not, we need to make sure we have the classes, advising and services to really make it a worthwhile educational experience,” Fallis said.