CSU board of trustees may add news fees of up to $372 per unit starting Fall 2013

Hansook Oh

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The Cal State University board of trustees will vote on three resolutions that could increase fees for general in-state and out-of-state tuition and add three new “resident undergraduate” fees of up to $372 per unit, at their next meeting, Wednesday.

The resolutions are part of a contingency plan that would go into effect if voters do not pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 in November.

About $250 million in “trigger cuts” would be initiated from the CSU system if Proposition 30 fails, and this “trigger on the trigger” would ensure that revenue is generated to make up for the loss, according to the CSU Finance Committee’s agenda.

However,Vice Provost Cynthia Rawitch said CSUN officials have already enacted measures such as unit restrictions and limits on repeat courses, so she questioned whether another fee hike would help the situation.

“If we don’t get money from the state, we have to increase student fees,” Rawitch said. “Rather than doing that on everybody, let’s address the fee increases to students for things that we want them to do better.”

It is unclear whether or not the three fees – if any or all are approved on Wednesday– are absolutely contingent on the success or failure of Brown’s tax initiative. The CSU Finance Committee stated in their agenda that the fees are “recommended even if the Governor’s tax initiative passes.” However, according to CSU board of trustees representative Stephanie Thara, the fees will only go into effect if Prop 30 fails.

Basic tuition for Spring 2013 would increase immediately by a few hundred dollars and the academic year beginning in Fall 2013 would amount to $6,270 for a full-time resident undergraduate student. That number only reflects the tuition cost, and does not factor in other mandatory fees CSUN students pay, such as the Associated Students Fee, Student Union Fee and Campus Quality Fee. Out-of-state students’ extra per-unit fee will increase from $372 to $399 starting Fall 2013.

While the CSU previously made these tuition increases known to students and the public, the three new “resident undergraduate” fees – the Graduation Incentive Fee, Course Repeat Fee and Third-Tier Tuition Fee – were not published until their agenda was uploaded to the CSU website Friday Sept. 7.

The first adds an extra $372 per-unit on students who take more than 150 units to complete their undergraduate degree; the second adds $100 per-unit on any repeated courses; and the third creates a third-tier of tuition fees by charging students an extra $200 per-unit if they take more than 16 units per term. The agenda stated that no student would be charged more than one of these fees on the same course taken in one semester or quarter, but did not clarify which of the three fees a student would have to pay if more than one applies to a course.

The extra costs will generate about $35 million annually, according to CSU officials.

“The fees intended to increase student access to classes and reduce time to graduation and are recommended even if the governor’s tax initiative passes,” stated the agenda.

Rawitch said she had known about the possible third-tier tuition increase for students taking more than 16 units per term, but had not heard about the other two fees. Rawitch believes that adding these specific fees is better than raising fees across the board again.

“I don’t see how that’s an incentive,” Rawitch said about the about the third-tier tuition fee. “A student will look at that and say, ‘I will just stay here a semester longer.’ That isn’t accomplishing anything as far as I can see.”

CSUN is already doing to obtain the goal that the fees are trying to accomplish, Rawitch said.

CSUN has already placed a unit cap at 15 units per semester, only creating exceptions for graduating seniors. Financial aid runs out at 150 units, and students can only sign up to take repeat courses one week before the beginning of the semester, so that those taking the class for the first time have priority.

“I’m not sure that adding an additional $300 for repeating a course helps any,” Rawitch said, in referral to repeating a three-unit class. “It may be for some students that they didn’t try hard enough the first time. By and large, those students have learned they shouldn’t do that and they need to pay attention. I think probably the ones who are repeating, they need the class a second time to really get it and it seems a little heavily punitive to me.”

Fee increases like these might be the least painful way to deal with the heavy cuts hemorrhaging the CSU system, but no tuition hikes would have to take place if the state was funding public education as it promised, Rawitch said.

“Of the three, if I had to favor one, I would favor the (first one),” Rawitch said. “But none of it should be happening – the state of California should be bearing its share of costs of higher education as it has done for decades – but that may be an imaginary world that doesn’t happen anymore.”