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Students Rally as Trustees Consider Tuition Hike

Potential tuition hike has students concerned

Students protesting against the CSU Tuition increase outside the Office of the Chancellor

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Students protesting against the CSU Tuition increase outside the Office of the Chancellor

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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Last Tuesday, over 30 students, faculty and staff from colleges across the California State University (CSU) system gathered at the Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach to protest the proposed tuition increase. At the Board of Trustees meeting, they gathered with signs reflecting their anxieties about the proposed tuition increase.

Currently, the Board of Trustees estimates that CSU requires an investment of $346 million to remain in proper working order. However, they predict that the Governor is only willing to allocate $157.2 million. With a $168.8 million funding gap, the Board has been looking for alternative ways to fulfill CSU’s needs.

In 2011, the CSU system ordered for a similar tuition increase, which was designed to effectively avoid any further raises for five years. Now that those five years have elapsed, students face a new and problematic financial concern.

Though President Covino attended the meeting, he has remained silent on the issue at hand. Chancellor White, on the other hand, has remained steadfast in his support for tuition increase. He authored the resolution, which brought tuition increase to the forefront of discussion among trustees. White believes that his duties as Chancellor make him responsible not only for current CSU students, but also future ones.

Although increasing tuition rates by 5%–as White proposed–wouldn’t solve the budget issue altogether, it would generate a sizeable $77.5 million. These funds could be devoted to the 2025 graduation initiative program, a Board priority designed to increase the graduation rate from a concerning 19% to 40%. Other benefits include a 70% six-year graduation rate and shortened time for transfers.

Many students have voiced skeptical attitudes toward the efficacy of the program. There is little to no factual proof that the graduation initiative will actually work.

“Whether it’s going to happen, we don’t know. I appreciate the ambition and everything that went into that plan, but it’s not really guaranteed that it’s going to work out. We don’t know if students are going to graduate that one or two semesters early,” said Marcos Montes, ASI Vice President of External Affairs.

Regardless of whether it actually works out, the money needed for the initiative still presents a major challenge. Many students fear that the remaining budget deficit will result in cuts at their expense.

“They’re going to cut services and programs that support students. The graduation initiative already will be counterproductive, because they’ll be less services and programs. At the board of trustees, they said that cuts to the CSU systems are made in the ‘form of people’. And ‘form of people’ means less students, less faculty, less staff members. People will lose their jobs and students will not be admitted,” said Montes.

Though many students want to cooperate, they simply don’t understand why the burden needs to be on them. “We’re on the same page. We have the same goal. We want the CSU system to keep on working for students of low-income, working backgrounds. But, students don’t feel like we should pay for that. It should be the state government,” said Montes.

But not all students will have to pay. The CSU estimates the approximately 60% of student will be unaffected by the tuition hike. The reason? Students with family annual incomes of less than $70,000 qualify for tuition waivers. In addition, all student financial aid would cover the increased costs.

Montes, however, finds this claim misleading. Students can’t even survive on the financial aid they’re currently on, let alone an increase. Additionally, the broad term ‘financial aid’ doesn’t factor in loans, which must eventually be paid back to state.

“The conversation shouldn’t be whether financial aid can cover tuition increase or not. The conversations we should really be having is about increasing financial aid for students. Because in the current model, a lot of students are not making it,” said Montes.

In light of this growing crisis, Cal State LA’s Lobby Corps serve to stick up for the student population. Lobby Corps member Neyda Susana believes that the main goal of the organization is to keep students well informed.

“Our main goal is to really advocate for students, make sure that students are aware what’s going on and well informed. Also, that they have the opportunities and pathways to make an effective change. And that all starts with being informed. Definitely, I know our goal here for the rest of the semester is to recruit as many people as possible to help us with these events,” said Susana.

Montes, the leader of Lobby Corps, also encourages students who are interested in student advocacy and student rights benefits to join. Though Lobby Corps already has an influence at the campus-level, they are expanding to the state and federal levels.

March 21, marks the final decision day. Until then, Montes and Susana will fight with to make sure the Board makes a decision in favor of the students.

The issue of tuition increase is a more personal one for Susana. With two younger brothers, Susana worries that they will face financial hardships even greater than hers. “I have two little brothers right now, and I always think how much harder is it going to be for them to do what I did,” she said.

Montes, however, has no fears looking about next month. “I feel very optimistic this is a battle we can win. I think the board of trustees can send a very representative vote, and that vote represents that ‘no, we will not raise the tuition on our students. California state government, you need to figure it out,’” said Montes.

For more information on the tuition hike, visit www.asicsula.org/tuitionincrease.

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