Students protest as CSU board considers 5-percent tuition hike

The California State University Board of Trustees on Wednesday will consider raising tuition by 5-percent for the 2017-18 school year to address a shortfall in funding from the state in the face of increased demand for programs.

Under the proposal, annual in-state tuition would increase by $270, from $5,472 to $5,742. A similar increase is proposed for non-resident tuition, along with increases in graduate, doctoral and teacher-credential programs. The increase is projected to generate $77.5 million in the 2017-18 school year.

"The CSU remains committed to keeping costs as low as possible for students," according to a staff report to the board. "More than 60 percent of all CSU undergraduate students receive grants and waivers to cover the full cost of tuition. Nearly 80 percent of all CSU students receive some form of financial assistance. The CSU does not expect these percentages to change as the result of a potential tuition increase."

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Buena Park, with bipartisan support from seven fellow legislators, sent a letter Tuesday urging the CSU trustees to vote against the tuition increase. "It is my belief that funding our systems of higher education should not be done on the backs of students and their families," Quirk-Silva wrote.

"For this reason, we strongly oppose this tuition increase which would continue to put a burden on low-income and middle-class families." Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal released in January included a $157.2 million increase in state funding for the CSU system, but it was still $167.7 million short of what the CSU had requested. In addition to the tuition increase, CSU officials said they plan to continue lobbying for increased funding from the state.

"With the historic gains made in four-year and six-year graduation rates, the aggressive targets set out in Graduation Initiative 2025, and the state recently focusing on these same goals, CSU arguments for increased state funding have never been stronger," according to the CSU staff report. "While additional state funding is the preferred course, the state allocation will not be known until a final budget agreement is reached in June 2017."

Failing any additional funding the CSU will look at reducing programs and services. "Fewer course sections would be available to students, average unit load would go down and ultimately it could take longer for students to graduate," according to the staff report.

The possibility of a tuition increase has had students on the defensive for months. In November, members of a group known as Students for Quality Education gathered outside the CSU Chancellor's Office in Long Beach in protest as the Board of Trustees met.

About a dozen students, some dressed like zombies, held what they called a "Walking Debt" protest, complete with headstones featuring the names of each of the CSU campuses. Inside the board meeting, students condemned even the possibility of a tuition hike. "You keep reaching into our pockets, and we're suffering," one student told the board. "Every time you all come up with these crazy concepts and you want to dig into our pockets, like, I feel less and less valued. I feel like a dollar to all of you."

The group contended that while tuition has been frozen for four years, the cost of attending CSU increased by 283 percent between 2002 and 2012.

More student protests are planned this morning.

In January, the University of California Board of Trustees approved a roughly 2.5 percent tuition increase for the 2017-18 academic year, raising base in-state tuition from $11,220 to $11,502, along with a $54 increase in the student services fee, from $1,074 to $1,128.

Out-of-state UC students will pay the same increases in base tuition and fees, along with a $1,332 jump in supplemental tuition, which will increase to $28,014. The total increase for non-resident students will be $1,668.

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