Despite pleas from student advocates, California State University trustees voted 11-8 Wednesday to increase tuition by 5 percent this fall, but not without putting pressure on Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature to increase funding for the nation’s largest public university system.
If the state doesn’t boost funding to CSU, trustees will put the burden on students — including those in Bakersfield — starting this fall to raise an additional $77.5 million for the system.
That means tuition will increase by $270 a year; going from $5,472 to $5,742 for a full-time undergraduate student. It will be more for students enrolled in masters and doctoral programs.
“We’re letting the Legislature off the hook,” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, an ex-officio CSU trustee, said Wednesday, encouraging trustees to put pressure on lawmakers to look for ways to increase funding. “I think we could get creative and not burden any students through some administrative fiat.”
CSU officials rationalized the increase in a staff report, stating that working students who earn California’s $10.50-an-hour minimum wage would have to work an additional 33 hours, or one hour more per week during the academic year, to cover the tuition increase.
California Faculty Association President Jennifer Eagan described that rationalization as “tone deaf.”
“It takes an extraordinary amount of hours for a student to pay $6,000 in CSU tuition over a year, and live, and potentially pay campus-based fees,” said Eagan, adding that she thinks many trustees imagine students have lots of financial support and only work 10 or 15 hours a week.
“That’s not really the experience for most of our students. We have students who have families themselves, and financial responsibilities,” Eagan said.
Such is the case for CSU student Laura Jean.
“I can't even afford tuition now, along with transportation, child care, books and living expenses. Minimum wage does not suffice. Even the $15 minimum wage is not enough. Hence why people go to college. The school is punishing students and using us as leverage to push the state to give them more money,” Jean wrote on The Californian’s Facebook page.
CSU tuition has been increasing for years. In 2007, annual tuition — not including campus fees, which vary from site to site — was $2,772 for a full-time student. In four years, it spiked almost 49 percent to $5,472, where it has remained frozen until now.
By comparison, Bakersfield College and Taft College charge students $46 per unit, or about $552 for a full course load, which is standard across California. BC’s industrial automation baccalaureate program costs $130 per unit for two years of upper-division course work.
CSU tuition, however, remains far below full-time tuition at the University of California, which costs $12,294 annually, not including campus-based fees.
The tuition increases at CSU won’t hit everyone, though.
At Cal State Bakersfield, roughly 5,300 students, or 65 percent of CSUB's student body, are enrolled in Federal Pell Grants, which subsidize the cost of tuition, said Alex Dominguez, president of CSUB’s Associated Students Inc. Those individuals aren’t impacted by the fee hike.
But the remaining 45 percent of students will be forced to work more and study less, Dominguez said.
“How does that help our graduation increase when students aren’t on campus to focus on academics?” Dominguez asked.
It also creates barriers for first-generation students, who have already faced difficulties being accepted to a college, let alone finding the money to pay for it, Dominguez said.
Roughly 75 percent of those attending CSUB are first-generation college students, CSUB spokesman Michael Lukens said.
“These are students who are just getting into the college system, learning everything, and then we’re hit with an increase and have to find another $300,” Dominguez said. “I know it will be tough for all of our students.”
Even after voting to raise tuition, CSU still faces a $90 million shortfall. It asked the state for about $325 million in additional funding last year, but the governor has proposed roughly $157 million.
CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said trustees are awaiting the governor’s budget revision in May, and will continue advocating for increased funding to fill that gap, the only reprieve for students facing a tuition increase.