Let's start by calling "student success fees" what they really are — thinly disguised tuition increases charged to students for basic educational services. These fees, which are being levied at many California State University campuses, can cost up to $1,000 a year, on top of the official tuition, which has nearly doubled since 2007 to about $5,500. Not counting room or board.
Because Gov. Jerry Brown's 2014-15 budget would increase state funding by more than $140 million, Cal State has agreed to freeze tuition. Yet Cal State campuses in Northridge, Pomona, Long Beach and other places have already added mandatory success fees to the price tag. Four more campuses, including Fullerton and Dominguez Hills, are seeking permission to do the same.
But fees are supposed to be for services not directly tied to education. Those might include, for instance, parking, recreation or medical care. In the case of the so-called success fee, the extra cash is supposed to pay for more course offerings and the counseling needed to graduate, both of which sound like academic basics.
It's an end-run around both the flat-tuition agreement and the Cal State board of trustees, which sets tuition levels. The fees require only the approval of Cal State Chancellor Timothy White — who should reject the new ones and roll back the existing ones. They set a terrible precedent. If a college can call it an "extra" to provide an instructor with a classroom, where does it stop?
The Cal State campuses deserve our sympathy. They're trying to continue their mission even though funding, while improving, is nowhere near what it used to be. According to the California Budget Project, even with the added funding for Cal State and UC in the preliminary 2014-15 budget, the state's contribution would be close to 25% less than they received before the recession, when adjusted for inflation.
Families have done more than their share of picking up the load; now it is the state's turn to invest more in higher education. Brown has created a remarkable new plan for building and stabilizing funding over the next several years for kindergarten through 12th grade; he should do the same for the public colleges and universities that have long drawn great academic minds to the state, attracted high-paying businesses and given California's brightest students an affordable educational option.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times