The California State University Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to approve a 10 percent increase in student fees, making the CSU undergraduate tuition for one academic year to $3,421.
Chancellor Reed and the Trustees reiterated numerous times that they would apply to the state government for an increase in the CSU budget or for the governor to buy out the student fee increase as he did in the 2006-2007 academic year, but the crowd present for the vote and one of the trustees were not convinced.
CSU Trustee Melinda Guzman Moore spoke up to recommend that the Board of Trustees “use an outside financial institution to analyze our budget situation.” When the time came for the vote, Guzman Moore was the lone “nay” that rang out.
CSUN student and member of CSU Students for Quality Education introduced the students with prepared speeches during the open forum session before the vote saying, “We’re here because the Board of Trustees needs to look for other means.”
CSU Dominguez Hills and AB540 student Carolina Conto spoke on behalf of herself and other students in her situation.
“Student fees have increased 76 percent since 2002 and for AB540 students we cannot apply for financial aid or grants,” Conto said. “Tuition comes from our own pockets and a fee increase will affect students that don’t have a voice, like AB540 students.”
AB540 allows undocumented students who have attended high school in California to pay resident tuition at state universities. By law these students receive no financial aid from the government.
Alma Carlson from CSU Long Beach said, “Fees go up, courses go down, class size goes up. I’ve already had three of my favorite professors quit for a better paying job. How am I supposed to get a letter of recommendation for graduate school?”
She continued, “It’s completely unfair to increase tuition and then provide low quality education.”
A CSU Fullerton student called the 76 percent fee increase over five years and recent 20 percent salary increase to CSU executives a “catastrophic misappropriation of resources that students will not remain acquiescent to.”
As the CSU students approached the podium one by one, many of the Trustees looked bored and uninterested, one even falling asleep before CSUN student and A.S. Director of Cultural Awareness Dina Cervantes took the mic.
“The CFA has said no to raising student fees and executive perks, the CSSA has said no, and right now, the CSU family needs to come together to lobby the legislature for more funds,” Cervantes said.
During the discussion of the proposed fee increase, the Trustees focused mainly on the increased amount of student aid that would be made available to students who face financial hardships in lieu of the increase.
Cervantes said in reference to their discussion, “What is most needed is financial aid, but that is not rising comparably to student fees.”
Another student from CSU Fullerton brought up a recent report from the Legislative Analysts Office. The LAO reported that the increase to student fees need not rise above 2.4 percent after analyzing the budget.
However, according to the compact between the CSU and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is assumed that one-third of the budget will come from enrollment growth and student fees. But even the compact dictates that student fees should only be raised 8 percent for the 2007-08 year, unless there are “fiscal exigencies” in which case the maximum increase is 10 percent.
“There have been increases in tuition, in text books, in parking permits and in living expenses – the LAO said there is no need for another tuition increase,” the CSU Fullerton student said. “Do not be emasculated by the system.”
Justin Rivas also concluded the student speeches saying, “The CSU educational system is supposed to stand for ‘affordable, accessible, and quality education’ but those concepts are being eroded. When you vote, remember that you represent us.”
In response, CSU executive William Hauck said, “Thank you for all your comments. We’re not anxious to increase fees, but we are in a bind.”
Within two minutes, the 10 percent increase had been approved with no further discussion among the trustees.
At the end of his time at the podium, Rivas passed out flyers stating that students were prepared to strike as well, and encouraged the chancellor and trustees to contact CSU Students for a Quality Education.
“They don’t care about us, the students,” Rivas said of the trustees. “They have to understand that students are the priority.”
The California Faculty Association President John Travis said that this was the first he’d heard of the student strike, but in his opinion it was “heartening.”
“Although I haven’t discussed it with CFA members, we’ll work with the students, CSSA and CSU campuses,” he said. “Helping students is a priority to us.”
Recently, the CSU Chancellor’s office has announced the results of the CPEC faculty compensation surveys. The March 14 CSU agenda states the LAO reviewed the results and found them to be “flawed and misleading.”
In spite of complaints about a tight budget for the CSU, Travis retorted, “This is a four billion dollar budget with plenty of money for pet projects, elaborate management computer systems, building projects and big handouts for the executives. There is money to pay the teachers who deliver the education. This is a question of will, not capacity.”
The CFA is now in the fact-finding stage of negotiations with the CSU. They will receive a report on today and Travis said, “that’s when the clock starts ticking.” They then have ten days to consider the report, but at the end of that time the CSU faculty can legally strike.
In a letter to the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Reed, Travis states that the vote results will be announced March 21.
The CSU Finance Committee agenda states that the 10 percent student fee increase is required in order to “achieve market-equitable compensation ? and reduce outstanding salary lags” for university employees.
Both students and faculty condemned this connection.
Throughout the course of the day Travis called it “particularly depressing,” “disingenuous” and “disturbing.”
And Rivas considered it an attempt to divide students and faculty. Other students called it “a divide and conquer technique.”
In his letter he states, “To deliberately attempt to drive a wedge between those who come to the University for a Service, and those who provide it in order to achieve political advantage is unconscionable.”
Back in the Trustees meeting, a senior CSU student said that although students realize that the recent executive raise in salary does not account for a large amount of the CSU budget, the timing is offensive.
“It is demoralizing as a student to have that cognitive dissonance of an increase in executive compensation and an increase in student fees,” he said.
The most applicable speech to CSU students was given by CSU Fullerton Associated Student President Heather Williams.
“There are deep financial aid issues concerning students whose parents make too much money, but do not financially support their child’s higher education.”
With the approval of a 10 percent increase in student fees, combined with each campus’ separate fees, tuition will jump higher than many students can afford with minimum wage salaries and full class loads. According to the CFA’s calculations, students enrolled in the 2007-08 academic year would have to work 370 hours at today’s minimum wage to pay the increased fees.