CSU Union Members, Students Against Proposed Tuition Hike

Daniel Pineda

More than 460,000 students of the 23 California State University campuses could see annual tuition increases in coming years - for the first time in nearly a decade – as CSU officials are moving toward implementing an annual 6% tuition increase that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the cash-strapped system.

On July 11, the CSU board of trustees’ Committee on Finance weighed the proposal to increase college tuition, in which they voted to send it to the full board for final approval. According to officials, the tuition hike is necessary to contend with a massive budget gap of nearly $1.5 billion spanning across the 23-campus system, which includes the entire CSU campus system.

According to Trustee Lillian Cambpell, it is unfortunately part of the board’s responsibility to make difficult decisions, such as increasing tuition.

“It’s painful but that’s what we’re here to do,” she said. “We’re not here to preside over the degradation of the institution.”

A report released in May by the CSU found that the 23-campus system is significantly underfunded, with its two main revenue sources, the state and tuition, covering only 85% of what it needs for student services, academic support, instruction and other expenses in the 2021-22 year.

According to the CSU’s report, the proposal would generate $148 million of revenue in the first year (2024-2025), “with a goal of dedicating $49 million to the State University Grant (SUG) Program for financial aid support for students. Over the first five years of the tuition increase, the proposal would generate $860 million with a goal of dedicating $280 million for financial aid.”

The remainder of the funds from the tuition increases would also be used to expand the work of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025 - which aims to increase graduation rates for first-time and transfer students - alongside pay raises for the CSU workforce, academic facility and infrastructure upgrades, plans to boost enrollment, and other operational costs, according to the report.

The report also stated that the proposed tuition increases wouldn’t change CSU’s status as among the most affordable higher education systems in the country. It also added that about 60% of its student population would remain unaffected by change, due to grants and fee waivers.

During the CSU’s committee of finance meeting, several trustees agreed that raising tuition is necessary to create financial stability in the system after going without an increase all but once in the last 11 years. About 12 of the 25 members of the Board of Trustees expressed support for a tuition hike, with some sharply opposing it..

According to Diana Aguilar-Cruz, a voting student trustee, during the meeting, the student groups weren’t given enough time to give their full input on the matter. The Cal State Student Association doesn’t meet during the summer and has been in the process of onboarding a new set of leaders for the next academic year since May, which is when the CSU began its discussion about the proposed tuition increase.

“I do believe that our timing should be punched so that at least we come back to vote on this in November so that we can give enough time to the students that we serve, so that they can have that conversation,” Aguilar-Cruz said. “Students have fought the same fight countless times and we’ve lost each time. It almost feels that our voices have been ignored throughout the years.”

As the CSU Board of Trustees’ Committee of Finance spoke and debated on the proposed tuition hike, CSU students and unions representing Cal State workers rallied outside the meeting in protest against the proposal.

One of the groups that protested against the tuition increase was The Cal State Student Assn., which represents the system’s 460,000 students. In an official statement, they said the plan “lacks measurable outcomes” and fails to detail alternative plans for raising money.

“The proposal does not serve the best interest of students,” the group said. “It threatens to burden students, especially those struggling with the pandemic aftermath and escalating living costs.”

According to Gregory Christopher Brown, an associate professor of criminal justice at Cal State Fullerton and the CFA chapter president of the university, the union is in complete opposition to the tuition hikes – arguing that the CSU should find the money to give employees raises elsewhere.

“They’re pricing people out,” Brown said. “(tuition) increases have a negative impact on people’s ability to attend the CSU and this is supposed to be people’s university.”

According to Marcia Moran, a student from CSULA, she believes university presidents and top administrators – many of whom draw an annual salary of more than $300,000 and receive tens of thousands of dollars each year in housing allowances – are out of touch with the lives of CSU students, many of whom come from low-income families.

“The fact that they still want to increase tuition, thinking it would not affect us in any way – it’s very telling that they don’t understand the actual struggles and hardships that we have to face,” said Moran.

The five-year proposal for the CSU tuition increase will be decided for final approval from the Board of Trustees in September. Although the date won’t be confirmed until the agenda for that month’s meeting is released.

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