LONG BEACH – The California State University Board of Trustees convened Thursday and voted again to increase student fees as university presidents and CSU executives received 13.6 percent pay raises for the next academic year.
The 8 percent fee increase for undergraduates and 10 percent fee increase for graduate students was approved by the board as part of its proposed 2006-07 budget despite impassioned and often emotional pleas not to do so from CSU student representatives, who traveled from all over the state to the meeting. The increase comes after a similar 8 percent increase during 2005-06 and double-digit increases in previous years.
Rebecca Balderas, a student from San Jose State, voiced a common theme among students: Since the state as a whole benefits from its citizens receiving a higher education, its cost should be distributed more evenly among citizens through taxation.
“I am going to stop calling them student fees and instead call them what they really are: student taxes,” said Corey Jackson, the student trustee on the board and the only member to oppose the fee increases.
“We came this far so you would hear us,” said Carol Peters of San Diego State fervently. “We (the students) cannot afford another increase. My fees have increased $1,000 since starting at San Diego (State).”
Peters also spoke about the fact that she and many of her fellow students must hold down one or more jobs in order to make ends meet.
“We can’t take another hit. We’re tired.”
“College should not be a luxury,” she said. “It should be an opportunity.”
Peters and several other students were moved to tears when describing to the board the difficulties they face with tuition rates as high as they are now. Some said their families were already suffering from the strain and financial burden of trying to assist them or support them as they work toward their educational goals.
Board members verbally offered their sympathy for students’ plight, but it did not translate into action.
Later in the meeting, board members voted to approve the 13.6 percent salary increases, as well as an increase in housing and living expense compensation for system executives and university presidents. This will increase CSU Chancellor Charles Reed’s salary from $316,692 to $362,500, and will produce on average a $30,000 to $50,000 pay raise for CSU presidents.
Upon approval of the salary increase, union members representing faculty and staff walked out of the meeting room.
“It was a shock,” said John Travis, California Faculty Association president. “The trustees place more weight on executives’ salaries than on giving students a break.”
Travis said that in light of the decision to increase student fees made earlier, the salary increase is “obscene.”
“It’s a (public relations) nightmare,” he said. “They raise student fees, and they fail to address salary issues for other employees. It’s a slap in the face to students and the other CSU employees.”
Travis pointed out that recent raises for CSU faculty have barely been adequate.
Chair Murray Galinson thanked staff, faculty and students for coming to talk to the board and said the members would do what they could to help alleviate their hardships.
Vice Chair William Hauck explained that even though he feels for students, he felt he had no choice but to vote for the fee increase.
“We (the board members) are caught in a bind,” he said. “We are responsible for the system, and we have to balance affordability and access with quality of the institutions.” Hauck pointed out that the CSU system must contend with other public funding concerns, such as K-12 education and state-sponsored welfare.
Hauck pointed out that the trustees are faced with the delicate balance between making the CSU institutions accessible while still ensuring the quality.
“I don’t want to vote for the (student fee) increases, but I have to,” he said. “As a steward of the CSU system, I feel I have no choice.” Hauck said he would do everything he could to mitigate the problem.
Bryson White, CSUN Associated Students director of political awareness, agreed with Hauck to some degree.
“The state doesn’t give them enough money, it puts them in a bind,” he said. “They’re making the students pay for the state’s mistakes. That’s why (Corey Jackson) was saying the fee increase is a tax.”
Selene Salas, A.S. Humanities II senator, voiced her concern that the fee increases could have a wide-scale social impact on California.
“I think everyone should be able to get a quality education,” she said. “But we have to pay more and more to succeed. It marginalizes people.”
San Francisco State A.S. president Chris Jackson expressed disappointment with today’s events.
“It’s been the same for the last three years,” he said. “We’ve poured our hearts out, and they say they understand, say they’re going to get more money from the state, but it doesn’t happen. I feel for our next generation of students.”
Bethania Palma can be reached at email@example.com.