Gov. Schwarzenegger proposes student fee freeze

Sandy Archila

Daily Sundial

There is hope for students who have a hard time paying for tuition at CSUN.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to eliminate the scheduled 8 percent fee hike for students at the University of California and California State University campuses for the 2006-2007 year.

Schwarzenegger met January 18 with University of California Regents to discuss his January budget proposal, which includes a $125 million tuition fee freeze for all state universities.

If Schwarzenegger’s UC and CSU fee freeze proposal is ratified by the legislature, students would pay the same tuition as the present school year for the next two years. It would be the first time in four years that California state students would not have to pay more tuition than the previous year.

According to Schwarzenegger’s proposal, the state would be able to afford the fee freeze because of an increase in the state’s tax income, due to the improving economy.

In November 2005, voters overwhelming rejected Schwarzenegger’s propositions during the recent California Special Election, subsequently giving Schwarzenegger a “wake up call,” said Laura Kerr, Director of Governmental Affairs at the California State Student Association.

“Taking into account that this is an election year, it’s like he’s saying [to the people of California], ‘Look at what I’m doing for you right away’,” she said.

The governor’s proposal is similar to a strategy that former California Governor Pete Wilson used during his reelection year, Kerr said.

As for fee freezes beyond 2008, Kerr said, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

According to Kerr, there is no way of knowing right now what will happen in 2008.

Kerr said short terms limits and backdoor politics are reasons why she thinks lawmakers are in no rush to fight for higher education.

A report released by the CSU’s Board of Trustees in 2004, shows that for every $1 the state invests in the CSU system, it has a return of $4.41.

Congress cut the funding for federal student-loan program in January. The cut will take $12.7 billion from the federal student-loan program over the next five years.

Kimberly Ramirez, freshman biology major, said she was concerned about the financial burden that she is facing attending university.

“I am concerned about cuts in financial aid and an increase in student loan rates. I have a long road ahead of me in school, and the idea of graduating from undergrade school with $20,000 in high interest rate student loans is scary,” Ramirez said.

According to a 2005 report conducted by the CSU, the average graduating undergraduate CSU student leaves school with approximately $13,000 in student loans.

Felicia Cruz, a senior sociology student at the University of Santa Barbara and chair of the Board of Directors for the University of California Student Association, said she will graduate school with $30,000 in debt, but she believes the fee increase is the first step in making sure that all Californian students have the opportunity to obtain a higher education.

The California Legislature’s budget subcommittees are scheduled to examine the budget in detail, and a final budget could be passed by legislature and signed into law by the governor this summer.

The proposal includes investing more money into the Cal Grant program to raise the maximum grant level from $8,322 to $9,708 for private school students. According to the proposal, approximately 12,300 students will benefit from his budget.

The Higher Education Compact allows allocates funds to buy out the scheduled fee increases that were adopted by the California State University Board of Trustees in October 2005, and were planned for the fall semester of 2006, according to the CSU California Budget.

Nancy Archila can be reached at city@csun.edu.