Students protest tuition increase outside CSU Chancellor’s office

Adria Brodie

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Cal State Fullerton sophomore Bryan Norton, 19, asks CSU personnel and officers, “May we be present in our own meeting?” After negotiating, the students were given the right to be present during the meeting. Photo Credit: Patrick Dilanchian/ Contributing Photographer

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Students protested outside the California State University (CSU) Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach Tuesday after they voiced their opposition for possible tuition and fee increases for the spring semester and the 2011-12 academic year.

More than 20 students addressed the Board of Trustees with their concerns and personal stories about how the Committee on Finance proposed a mid-year tuition increase of five percent next semester and  a 10 percent annual increase for the following school year, which would negatively affect them going forward with their college education.

“Student fees have gone up 45 percent on average,” said Priscilla Martinez, 19, communications and public relations major at Cal State Dominguez Hills. “As our fees have increased, ironically, access to classes has decreased along with student services.”

Caitlin Seandel, 21, fourth-year women’s studies double major at San Diego State University, said she and a few classmates drove to the Chancellor’s office to make their voices heard during the meeting.

“It was important for me to be here because the Board of Trustees should have our student interest in mind, and the best way for them to know that is for me to voice it,” Seandel said.

William Hauck, Committee on Finance chair, said he appreciated how students felt and the comments they made.

He added the Board of Trustees was not the appropriator of the support funds that come to the CSU system.

Hauck said the legislature and the governor made those decisions and the board, as well as the chancellor, had pulled out every stop they could to avoid increasing fees.

“We are between you and the folks in Sacramento,” Hauck said. “There is not one member of this board anxious to increase fees, but that is not possible to operate as we should.”

The Committee on Finance approved the two-step tuition increase, which they proposed would maintain classes, student services and enrollment.

If the increase is approved by the board today, the five percent increase of $105 would be effective Jan. 1, 2011 for the winter and spring terms, and the 10 percent increase of $444 would be effective for the 2011-12 year.

Michelle Santizo, 22, health and science major at Cal State Fullerton, said as she sees it now, the Board of Trustees has already taken away her dream of completing her nursing degree.

“Because of tuition increases, I’m now forced to drop out of Cal State Fullerton because I can no longer afford it,” Santizo said. “I will leave Cal State Fullerton without a degree, but a debt to work on.”

Some board members already discussed how they would vote today on the fee increase and questioned whether or not a fee increase was necessary, and that it was a last resort.

Abel Maldonado, lieutenant governor of California and Board of Trustees member, said he has a daughter at a CSU and would be voting no on the increases.

“Is it really a disaster if the CSU doesn’t increase (tuition)?” Maldonado said. “Are we doing this because this is the last resort? Have we looked at the budget?”

Nicole Anderson, Board of Trustees member, said she would be supporting the 2011-12 support budget, but would be voting no tomorrow on a 10 percent increase.

Herbert Carter, Board of Trustees chair, said he wanted to remind his colleagues that they could not have it both ways. He added students cannot have access without money.

Carter said without a five percent increase, they could not invite more students to campus.

“What are we committed to?” he said.

“I am committed to the thousands of young students that need to be here, and if I have to vote on a five percent increase, I’m prepared to do that.”

The Board of Trustees will continue to meet today and will finalize whether or not the increase will take effect.

Claudia Ramirez, 24, sociology major at Cal State Long Beach, said as a student of color and a first-generation college student, tuition was a lot in general and, with an increase in fees, was more.

“We, the students, keep paying more, yet we keep seeing a dismantling of the quality of education in the CSU,” Ramirez said.