[box]Demystifying the Money is a new Mustang Daily series that will break down Cal Poly student tuition and fees.[/box]
California State University (CSU) tuition has more than doubled since 2007, and for the first time in history, CSU students are paying for more than 50 percent of their education. Undergraduate tuition is now $5,472 per year, or $1,824 per quarter for Cal Poly students.
Tuition goes up every year, but few students know where it goes exactly — or why — recreation, parks and tourism administration sophomore Sarah Thompson said.
“I think it’s not that bad compared to other schools, but it has been rising a lot since I was a freshman, and I don’t really know why,” Thompson said.
The CSU Board of Trustees votes each year to approve the CSU’s budget for the next fiscal year. In the face of frequent funding cuts, the Board often looks to raising tuition as a way to make up for some of the money lost.
Though the Board sets tuition, it has little say in how each school uses its individual tuition fees, said CSU public affairs assistant Liz Chapin.
“The tuition fee revenue that each campus gets, each campus keeps,” Chapin said.
Each school receives a portion of the CSU’s state funding based on student enrollment, Chapin said. Bigger schools such as Long Beach State receive more than double what smaller schools, such as CSU Monterey Bay, receive.
Cal Poly’s gross budget allocation, the sum of both tuition and CSU general fund, amounted to $208,232,438 this year. Most of that money is used to pay the staff and faculty who keep the university running, said Cal Poly’s vice president of administration and finance Larry Kelley.
“Eighty-two percent of what we spend is on people,” Kelley said.
The different ways that money is spent on people, however, is divided into several categories.
The largest amount of Cal Poly’s operating fund goes to the salaries and wages of faculty and staff — 58 percent of the fund during the 2010-11 fiscal year. About another fourth goes to benefits, or insurance and retirement funds. Two percent was designated to the risk pool, another distinction of insurance.
Nine percent of the fund in 2010-11 was allotted to “discretionary” spending, or buying materials and supplies as needed, Kelley said.
“Discretionary is supplies, equipment, those items necessary to provide the academic programs and support for it, and the care of the campus,” Kelley said. “When you buy floor cleaner, that comes out of discretionary.”
Another 2 percent of the operational fund goes to utilities, or the most basic necessities: gas, water and electricity.
Finally, 5 percent of Cal Poly’s money pie goes to the neediest students as financial aid.
During the past four years, the money Cal Poly spends on each category has shifted as the university dealt with changing demands and budget restrictions, Kelley said.
The portion of the operational fund spent on salaries and discretionary has shrunk by about 5 percent each year since 2007-08, while benefits and financial aid have increased.
With increasing cuts in state funding, Cal Poly’s budget is tightening, which leads to the school asking students to contribute more through proposals such as the Student Success Fee, an additional university fee that students will vote on in the spring.
Though the cost of a Cal Poly education is getting pricier by the year, the increasing tuition doesn’t improve the quality of education, but keeps it from deteriorating, said sociology senior and chief of staff to the president of California State Student Association Daniel Galvan.
“We haven’t really seen dramatic change in the quality of education,” Galvan said. “It’s more these changes are maintaining and stabilizing.”
Any CSU education is a good deal when compared to other states or private institutions, Galvan said. However, the difference in price is becoming smaller and smaller as tuition continues to climb, Galvan said.
In addition, the CSU is reducing enrollment yearly, to further lower the cost of wages, salaries and utilities.
“The CSU’s education definitely is still a value and definitely still a bargain, but as students are having to pay more and more for education, that’s where the focus of the CSU is being lost,” Galvan said.