Let’s Talk About Money
A deeper look into the approved tuition increase proposal
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A heated morning discussion would be an understatement to describe the California State University Board of Trustees’ meeting in which they approved the tuition increase. The proposal was passed with 11-8 votes on Wednesday, March 22. Student protesters from across the 23 CSU’s gathered in front of the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach at dawn, some arriving the night prior.
Although the board room was separated by heavy glass from outside and with a spacious lobby in the middle, everyone in the room could hear the students’ chanting crystal clear. “The more we pay, the longer we stay!” they shouted repeatedly.
As Chancellor White mentioned multiple times that this subject brought no joy to the board but it was out of necessity, students that came to express their opinions shouted, “Chancellor White, Do What’s Right!” And, when the action item was approved, students chanted, “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
During the meeting, some Trustees repeatedly mentioned that the lack of state funding was the very reason for the tuition increase proposal. It was initially made to fill the $167.7 million gap in state funding. “If adopted,” stated in the proposal, “the increase would generate $77.5 million in net revenue, after spending an additional $38 million on State University Grants to students. The tuition increase would take effect beginning in fall 2017 and would align with the timeline and requirement of the Working Families Student Fee Transparency and Accountability Act (Act).”
For full-time students, the approved plan will annually increase $270 for undergraduate students, $312 for credential students, and $438 for graduate and post-baccalaureate students. For doctoral candidates, it will be $720 more for Doctor of Education, $930 more for Doctor of Nursing Practice, and $1,048 more for Doctor of Physical Therapy.
The logic behind this proposal was, “several financial aid grant and waiver programs cover the full cost of tuition for more than 60 percent of all CSU undergraduate students… would have no financial effect on more than 255,000 undergraduate students.”
However, there are total of 478,638 students enrolled in the CSU system as of fall 2016, as stated in the analytic report of student enrollment on the CSU website. This number includes graduate and doctoral candidates who will also be burdened with an increase in tuition.
According to a new study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce and reported by CNBC, “over the past 25 years, more than 70 percent of college students have worked while attending school. And the number of working students has grown as college enrollment and tuition have increased… Students are working an average of 30 hours a week.”
In the Undergraduate Outcomes Report provided on the CSU’s website, the section that analyzes “Predicted Probabilities of Persistence and Degree Completion by Initial Declared Major,” shows that the majority of undergraduate students enrolled in the CSU system graduate in six years or less instead of in four years or less.
For a full-time undergraduate student in the CSU system who also works to make ends meet, and falls into the majority who graduates in six years or less. With the $270 increase in tuition annually, and the minimum wage requirement of $10.50 per hour in California, he or she will have to work about 13 extra hours every semester to make up for the $1,620 increase in tuition of the six-year undergraduate frame.
“I feel really pissed off, obviously people are struggling to even get by right now, as you saw, some people are homeless, a lot of people are facing food insecurity,” said Valerie, a Chicano Studies major from Cal State Northridge. “[It is] really upsetting, because they have the money, they are just giving it to people in the system, like the President. She’ll get a increase in pay, but she’ll expect us students to pay more when [we are] already working full-time. It’s just unfair.”
Valerie receives some financial aid and also pays out of her own pocket. “I’m graduating this semester, but I have a brother and a sister in the CSU system. This is going to affect them, that’s why I’m here today.”
For Alex, a master student in Public Policy and Administration at Cal State Long Beach, $438 is a large amount. “I pull out loans. It’s my second master, so I’m $100,000 in debt already. My sister is possibly going to Cal State Northridge soon, she’ll have to put that bill all on her own.”
Rebecca from Cal State Monterey Bay was especially passionate on this subject. She is a member of Students for Quality Education (SQE), majoring in Human Communications, and wants to be a part of educational government. “[I want to] change the system that makes us the sixth largest academic body, but the last in the country for education,” she said while the protesters chanted in the back. “Because of the allocation of funds, we don’t have the resources, but we give our Presidents housing, [give them] car allowances, and they make six-figure salaries… I’m paying for tuition all on my own, I don’t get support from my parents, [except for] phone bills. I got in a car accident [before] which allows me to pay for my undergrad [education] every year. I’m already 24 [years old], and I don’t have an undergrad [degree] yet. It’s going to take me a long time [to finish now].”
Although the proposal has already been approved, the Board of Trustees stated that if they could receive more state funding later this June, the proposal will be withdrawn. “The CSU’s first and highest priority is to advocate in Sacramento for full state funding,” stated by Public Affairs from the Office of the Chancellor. “If the state funds the CSU in full, the tuition increase will be refunded. Until the final state budget is released in June, CSU leaders, students, and stakeholders will work with the Governor and state legislative leaders to advocate for increased funding.”
The specific votes made by Trustees are also provided by the Office of the Chancellor and listed as below:
YES to tuition increase (11): Steven Stepanek, J. Lawrence Norton, Jane W. Carney, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, Chair of the Board Rebecca D. Eisen, Vice Chair of the Board Adam Day, Debra S. Farar, Jean P. Firstenberg, John Nilon, Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, and Peter J. Taylor.
NO to tuition increase (8): Silas Abrego, Douglas Faigin, Hugo N. Morales, Lateefah Simon, Maggie White, Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
Among whom, the most vocal and most cheers received Trustee was Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. “We can get creative without burning the students,” he emphasized. “This is not a binary situation here.”