Cal State Raises Fees

Times Staff Writer

Despite the pleas of students who complained of financial hardship, trustees of the California State University system Thursday approved fee increases of 8% for undergraduates and 10% for those in graduate programs for next school year.

The increases mean a fifth straight year of fee hikes for the more than 400,000 students in the 23-campus Cal State system, the nation’s largest network of public universities. University of California regents are due to vote on similar fee increases in November..

Under the plan approved by Cal State trustees, full-time undergraduate students who are California residents will pay $2,724 in systemwide fees next year, up from $2,520 this year. Combined with the additional fees imposed by each campus, undergraduates will pay an average of $3,368 next year, up from the current $3,164. Room, board and books are not included in those figures.


For graduate students, the 10% boost will raise systemwide fees to $3,414, up from $3,102. Combined with projected campus fees, the students will pay an average of $4,058, up from the current $3,746.

The increases could be modified if state lawmakers provide more -- or less -- funding than expected.

But a reversal is thought to be unlikely since the fee hikes this year and similar ones expected in coming years are part of the Cal State and UC university systems’ long-term budget agreement with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The decision to boost fees came on the same day that trustees approved raising salaries of Cal State’s top 27 executives by 13.7%, saying that research showed that their pay had fallen far behind that of their counterparts at other systems across the country.

That move, however, drew little criticism from student activists from Cal State campuses who flocked to the system’s Long Beach headquarters for the trustees’ meeting.

Instead, they cited hardships imposed by successive years of fee increases that, in some cases, have prompted students to quit school. Thursday’s action means that average overall fees for Cal State undergraduates next year, at $3,368, will have risen 79.4% from the 2001-02 school year, before costs began climbing sharply.

The trustees approved the budget, including the fee increases, by a 13-1 vote, with the lone “no” vote cast by student Trustee Corey Jackson, who called the fee hike a “student tax.”

Trustee Robert Foster, addressing the student leaders directly, said his vote for the fee increase and budget proposal “is something I don’t like to do, nobody wants to do, but we have to because we have to preserve quality.”

“We want this degree you’re working so hard, and probably going into debt for, to be worth something,” he said. “So you have to preserve quality as well as access.”

Cal State officials said the campuses, even with the increased fees, will still charge students less than most equivalent universities.

However, Rex Richardson, student body president of Cal State Dominguez Hills, said he had worked so much to earn money for school in previous years that “I was spending more time at work, more hours, than I was studying. So I compromised the whole reason that I went to the university.”

He warned trustees that boosting fees would make school unaffordable for even more students.

“CSU is the greatest university system in the nation, and it’s going to endure,” Richardson said.

He added, however, that the system’s quality means nothing “if you don’t have access to it” because of its cost.

Josef Anolin, a student government vice president from San Francisco State, said trustees were following their plan, crafted last year, to impose predictable fee increases rather than following the more volatile pattern of fee-setting that generally had prevailed since the early 1990s.

“However,” he said, “predictability for many students -- particularly those who I consider my peers at San Francisco State -- only means they’ll know when they won’t be able to afford a college education anymore.”

Anolin said students in expensive areas such as San Francisco face high living costs. At the same time, he said, many students can’t graduate as quickly as they would like because of limited room in required classes.

Rebecca Balderas, a student leader from San Jose State, called the fee increases unfair because, unlike most taxes, they single out one group.

“They are targeted tax increases,” she said. What’s more, Balderas added, “students already know that they won’t see the quality of their education improve even after paying that increased student fee.”

Trustees stressed that 33% of the fee increase would be used for $32.7 million in financial aid to shield the neediest students from fee increases. Other portions of the additional revenue would provide room for 10,000 more students and employee pay increases of about 3%, as well as more spending on technology, libraries and maintenance, they said.

At UC campuses, in-state undergraduates now pay an average $6,769 in fees, not including housing and other costs.

On Thursday, Cal State trustees approved a 13.7% salary hike for the system’s top executives, saying that Cal State needed to attract and retain top talent.

Officials contend that the Cal State executives’ salaries lag those of administrators at equivalent universities by 49.5%.

The increase will raise the base salary of Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed to $362,500, up from $316,692. He also receives an additional $30,000 from the CSU Foundation, along with a home to live in.

Also increased were the salaries for three other executives at the Cal State system headquarters, as well as the base pay for the 23 campus presidents.

The salary of the most highly paid campus president, Warren Baker of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, will go to $286,896, up from $253,440.