Cal State trustees approve budget, pay raises

Cal State chancellor says students will be turned away unless state provides more funding

California State University trustees approved a new budget Thursday for the 23-campus system and boosted the pay of top executives. The trustees also heard from students about campus fees but decisions on those won't be made until January.

The 2015-16 budget request of $269 million includes $216.6 million in state funding. That is far more than the $119.5 million proposed in Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan. Unlike the UC system, Cal State is not considering system-wide tuition hikes.

But without full funding, the system again will have to turn away thousands of eligible students, said Chancellor Timothy P. White.

The trustees' actions came amid a raucous meeting in Long Beach where students chanted and banged drums, urging that controversial campus fees be rescinded.

The so-called student success fees have been enacted at a dozen campuses to hire faculty, increase course offerings, extend library hours and improve other services that were reduced during the years of state funding cuts.

About 40 students set up an orange, green and white tent and wore colorful clown hats and outsized bow ties to demand that campus leaders stop “clowning” around and roll back fees as well as block imposition of new charges.

Many students said the fees, which range from $162 to $830 at full implementation, reneged on Brown’s spending plan, which calls for increased funding for Cal State and the University of California in exchange for flat tuition.

“They call these success fees but we’re not sure what they’re being used for,” said Eros Cubias, a student at Cal State Dominguez Hills, which recently enacted a fee that will start this spring. “We didn’t get a chance to vote. Students want an active voice and to be able to choose if we want to support these fees.”

That concern was heard inside the meeting. A committee created by the chancellor to study the fees recommended that no new fees be enacted without a binding student vote. It also recommended though, that there be no rollback of current fees or a sunset provision.

The board will vote on specific recommendations in January.

Several students who addressed the board said they had benefited from services funded by the fees. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was able to add hundreds of classes and hire more professors, which will allow Young Choi to graduate a year early in his landscape architecture major, he said.

That campus’ fee of $780 per student is the highest in the system.

“I’m not going to lie; it’s a lot of money. But for $780, I’m finishing a five-year program in four years,” said Choi.

On the pay raises, some trustees expressed reservations about the mingling of state and private funds to hike by 3% the pay of Chancellor White, 23 campus presidents and other executives. It was the first increase for those executives since 2007.

But the base, state-funded compensation for six of the presidents and White are also supplemented by private foundation funds in accordance with a policy approved years ago to blunt criticism of pay increases for new presidents amid the recession.

The pay increases approved Thursday will be paid from state funds but are based on total compensation, which includes the foundation pay. White argued that the calculation was fair, but several trustees found it troubling.

“While I approve and support the recommendation for the excellent work, I’m not comfortable using state funds to apply the 3% on the supplement; I don’t feel it’s appropriate,” said Trustee Lupe Garcia.

While there was no resolution to those concerns, White and board Chairman Lou Monville signaled that the compensation policies and use of foundation funds would be reviewed.

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