Higher tuition may be in store for California State University students starting this fall, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not proposed paying off a student fee hike in 2007 as he did a year ago, the first draft of his higher education budget indicates.
About half of the $4.3 billion budget for the CSU would come from fee revenue, the budget shows, $30 million of which depends on how many more students the system can attract to pay the $252 increase. The governor expects 11,000 additional students in 2007.
Claudia Keith, spokeswoman for the CSU, said she has not heard Board of Trustees members say if they would vote to approve the fee increase they agreed to in their compact with the governor. They are expected to discuss the matter during their March 13 meeting.
“We’re still in the early stages of the budget process. After all, it’s still January and adoption comes in June,” Keith said. “But we do want to negotiate for the money to pay off a tuition increase. It all depends on what happens in the Legislature and with the governor.”
Victoria Ballestros, spokeswoman for California Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero’s office, said, “(Romero) has always fought against student fee increases, and I expect she will continue to do so this year.” Romero is also a tenured professor at California State University Los Angeles.
Reluctance to pay off student fees this year is in line with Schwarzenegger’s mandate to eliminate the state’s operating deficit, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Governor’s Office. “This is a responsible state budget that allows us to live within our means,” he said.
Palmer defended the proposed higher education budget, saying there was no guarantee that it would be increased at all before the governor came into office. There was also no cap on student fees, which increased by as much as 90 percent under former Gov. Gray Davis, he said.
Under the new budget, the CSU would receive $109 million more to fund general operations. Extra fee revenue would go toward accommodating new students, and updating employees’ salary packages and university resources that were neglected due to past budget cuts.
“In order to pay faculty and staff, we only receive money from the General Fund and fee revenue to run our public institutions,” Keith said when asked why students are being asked to pay employees. “We don’t have many options of where we get the revenue from.”
“We negotiated a compact with the governor that’s reasonable, though we still want to have the $7 million in outreach programs put back into the budget,” Keith said. “We’ll also continue to negotiate for the 1 percent augmentation in compensation we were denied.”
Budgetary funds would also go toward raises for the university’s 23 presidents, including CSUN President Jolene Koester, which were approved by the CSU Board of Trustees a week ago. Koester’s salary will increase from $257,024 to $267,301.
It is still too early in the budget process to say if state funding will be reduced should student fee revenue exceed Schwarzenegger’s expectations, Palmer said, though language found within the Higher Education Compact assumes that this will not be the case.
In 2005, the CSU system exceeded its target growth enrollment. Last year’s numbers are not scheduled to be reported until May.
Anthony Simbol of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office said he could not say if 11,000 additional students will enroll by next spring because projections are partly based on how many students are currently enrolled, which is influenced by variables such as student fees and financial aid.
Kinesiology majors Ashley Monfort and Marilin Pintado said they are just getting by with the money they receive from financial aid and from working at Northridge’s campus library reshelving a catalogue of books the proposed budget would provide $2 million to increase.
“I would say ‘no’ to higher fees because I would have to work twice as hard to survive,” said Monfort, who pays $450 in rent.
Pintado said she lives with a friend who does not charge rent so a hike would not affect her as much. “But I still don’t like it,” she said.