Cal State University trustees gave preliminary approval on Tuesday to a $5.8 billion budget request for the next academic year, a move that may lead to the 23-campus system’s first tuition hike in five years.
If CSU leaders eventually decide to raise tuition, that decision is not expected to be made until March. Student protests of the potential tuition increase, which could be as high as $270 a year for undergraduate California residents, have already begun.
“As I learned in my sociology classes, movements are what pressure the people in power to do something,” said Ginny Dolores, a 22-year-old Cal State Fullerton student who was among several CSU students who protested outside the trustees’ meeting in Long Beach Tuesday.
Tuesday’s protests took on a theatrical form as several students, wearing zombie-themed costumes and makeup, declared themselves to be members of the “The Walking Debt” and chanted outside the Chancellor’s Office.
“Students, not customers,” nearly 20 students shouted in unison about 9 a.m. while trustees met inside.
Although the meeting did not give trustees a chance to vote for or against a tuition hike, Trustee Lateefah Simon said she appreciated the outspoken students’ efforts.
“We can continue to be the institution that keeps young people in college,” Simon said.
THE TUITION QUESTION
CSU’s undergraduate tuition rates have remained at $5,472 since the 2011-12 school year. University administrators have asked trustees to consider the prospect of a maximum $270 annual tuition increase for California resident undergraduates.
“For me, personally, that could be rent, That could be food that I could have,” Cal State Long Beach student Courtney Yamagiwa said of a $270 tuition hike while outside with other protestors. “I haven’t gone to the movies in forever. That’s too expensive.”
Inside the meeting, California Faculty Association President Jennifer Eagan brought up the existence of food pantries for hungry students at CSU campuses as a sign that tuition increases are not affordable for students. She added that any vote to raise tuition in March would allow legislators who could otherwise appropriate money for the university to be let off the hook.
Many students, however, may not be burdened by a tuition increase. Ryan Storm, CSU’s assistant vice chancellor overseeing budget issues, said students from families with annual incomes below $70,000 can expect to receive financial aid to cover higher tuition.
At present, some 61 percent of Cal State students receive grants and fee waivers that cover their tuition costs, according to information from CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle.
University of California officials are also considering a possible tuition increase. That system’s Board of Regents may vote on a $280 to $300 tuition increase as early as January, although three-quarters of UC students may receive enough financial aid to cover those costs, according to UC spokeswoman Claire Doan. UC Regents will discuss their system’s financial situation while meeting Wednesday in San Francisco.
WHAT CAL STATE TRUSTEES WANT
The CSU trustees’ financial committee voted to ask Sacramento for nearly $5.8 billion to pay for university operations during the 2017-18 school year. That number signifies an increase of nearly $344 million above current funding levels.
Trustees’ request for additional funding is in part motivated by CSU’s recently-approved initiative to boost four-year graduation rates. Administrators project that project will result in $75 million in new costs during the next school years.
Other projected costs:
• About $194 million to pay for employee compensation increases.
• About $38.5 million in costs associated with enrollment growth of some 3,600 students.
• $10 million for facilities and infrastructure.
• $26 million for various “mandatory costs,” tied to inflation, minimum wage increases or employees’ health care and retirement benefits.
The kind of tuition increase that CSU officials are considering would not raise enough money to cover all of these costs. Officials are counting on Gov. Jerry Brown recommending more than $157 million for the university as well as nearly $19 million in net tuition revenues from enrollment growth.
That leaves nearly $168 million required to fully fund trustees’ budget plan.
Raising the resident undergraduate tuition rate by $270 per year, combined with other increases affecting graduate students and people coming to a CSU campuses from outside of California, could raise a net of $77.5 million.
CSU administrators have framed tuition increases as an option that would be pursued in the absence of state appropriations. When Trustee Steven Stepanek asked how university officials would cover the difference, Storm said it would be premature to say.
On Tuesday, CSU trustees’ financial committee voted to approve the support budget request. All trustees are scheduled to vote on formal approval on Wednesday.
CSU administrators plan to schedule another tuition discussion for January, Storm said.