Cal State trustees approve controversial tuition hike

By Rosanna Xia | Los Angeles Times

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After a heated morning of debate and impassioned statements from students, professors and lawmakers, California State University’s Board of Trustees voted 11 to 8 Wednesday to increase tuition as a way to fill a looming gap in state funding.
“I don’t bring this forward with an ounce of joy,” said Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White, addressing the packed meeting chamber. “I bring it with necessity.”
Angry students stood up and shouted “Shameful!” and “Shame! Shame! Shame!” after the vote was taken.

Dozens of students had come to the Long Beach meeting from across the system’s 23 campuses. They had started gathering at dawn to protest any decision that would increase their financial burden. Wearing graduation gowns and caps with tassels, and holding signs stating their student debt, they demonstrated throughout the morning with drumbeats and chants of “The more we pay, the longer we stay!” They waved signs that read, “Change the system” and “Keep college affordable.”

University leaders had hoped California Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal would provide what was necessary to preserve the quality of the nation’s largest public university system. Instead, the amount he allocated in additional state funding is less than half what Cal State had requested.

Cal State’s vote follows the University of California Regents’ 16-4 vote earlier this year to end a tuition freeze and approve a 2.5 percent, or $282, increase next school year.
At Cal State, the increase would amount to about 5 percent, or about $270 for in-state students. Tuition for out-of-state students as well as graduate and teacher credential programs also would go up.

These increases would generate $77.5 million in crucial net revenue, officials said. The more than 60 percent of Cal State students whose tuition is fully covered by grants and waivers would not be affected.

To give themselves some leeway, the trustees built into their proposal the possibility of reconsidering their decision after the governor’s budget is set in June. For months, administrators, faculty and student leaders have been lobbying state lawmakers and are still hopeful for more funding.

But if history is any indicator, the university system will be grappling come June with escalating pressures to enroll more students, graduate them faster and hire more faculty _ all with a smaller share of state dollars than in years past.

State funding covers about half of Cal State’s operating costs, compared with 80 percent in the 1990s, according to administrators. The system relies on tuition and fees from its 475,000 students to cover the rest.

During the recession, the state slashed nearly one-third of its support to Cal State. From 2006 to 2011, tuition more than doubled, to $5,472.
In exchange for a tuition freeze, Brown pledged annual increases and the state has steadily restored funding in the last six years.

But the growing demands on the system have outpaced these funding increases, administrators said.

This year, Brown’s January budget proposal allocates about $157.2 million in additional funding for the next fiscal year and would raise total state support for Cal State to about $3.6 billion. University officials estimate they need an extra $324.9 million.

During the public comment period, dozens of students spoke passionately of homelessness, hunger and the families they are supporting while going to school. Some said they juggled multiple jobs and worked more than 30 hours a week, even collecting empty bottles to make ends meet. They spoke of textbook costs as high as $240 _ for a single subject.

“It’s not fair to the students. We are working hard and juggling so much already,” said Radhika Kataria, in her third year at Chico State majoring in public administration. She drove down to the meeting with about 15 other classmates and slept overnight in a nearby church in order to start protesting at dawn. “How do they expect us to graduate in time when we also have to work multiple jobs just to pay for college?”

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