Tyler Middlestadt

At the crossroads between reality and ideology, the intersection between vision and ability, and the boiling point between satisfaction and outrage, student fees exist as a necessary source of revenue and an inevitable source of contention within the CSU system.

What we’re faced with today is a significant shortfall in higher education funding from the State of California, a legislature unwilling to propose new revenue measures, and a generation of college students who are being asked to pay a higher percentage of the cost of education than any class before them.

Tomorrow, the Board of Trustees will vote on the 2006-07 CSU budget, which includes an 8 percent student fee increase, the third leg of the 30 percent increase agreed to in the Governor’s Compact.

To put the current situation in perspective, the State University Fee (SUF) has increased 76 percent since 2001, and will have increased by 90 percent in the same time period if the proposed increase passes. The SUF was $210 per year in 1982, $1,428 in 2001, and is currently $2,520. Two of the largest SUF increases were 40 percent in 1992, and 36 percent in 2003.

Luckily, for the sake of predictability and to stop the bleeding from relentless cuts to the CSU totaling over $500 million, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed the Higher Education Compact in 2004.

The Compact guarantees consistent base funding and promises no new cuts while providing funding for 2.5 percent enrollment growth annually, and establishing an expectation that students will pay a 30 percent fee increase over three years.

While the Compact is viewed by many as a saving grace from a storm of aggressive cuts, it still leaves many holes unfilled from previous cuts, meaning in short that students are being asked to pay more for education, and accept less in return.

The result is a lot of finger pointing, personal stories of financial challenges and a student body that is confusingly frustrated with the increased cost of higher education. How do you feel about the rising State University Fee? Is it an unnecessary burden on students? Is it a necessary sacrifice to preserve the quality of our universities? I encourage you to share your opinion at tmiddles@calpoly.edu or on AIM at “CPASI President.”

There’s a battle to be fought to preserve the integrity of higher education in the future, but unfortunately it’s a lonely time for those on the front lines. What those of us in the trenches are realizing is that we can’t do it alone. We need students to join us in our efforts to keep the CSU affordable. We need to work together to showcase the value of the CSU to our communities, our families and our legislators so that decision-makers understand that higher education is a priority for the taxpayers in California.

The time to speak up in support for higher education is now, and the people who will make a difference are you, your classmates, your parents and members of our community.

Are you willing to do what it takes to keep the CSU affordable for future students? Or will this fight join the rest of the forgotten initiatives left to collect dust on legislator’s policy agendas because the public failed to respond at a critical juncture in time?

The choice is ours, time is of the essence!

Tylor Middlestadt is the ASI President and a Mustang Daily columnist

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