Students in the California State University system should brace for a fee increase next year as large as 10%, or about $277 for undergraduates, because the cash-strapped state budget may not provide enough extra revenue to cover costs, officials warned Tuesday.
The Cal State Board of Trustees took no formal action on hiking fees at their meeting in Long Beach, and members said they would lobby hard in Sacramento over the next few months to avoid the increase. However, planners for the 23-campus system said it was unlikely that the state government, grappling with a budget crisis, would give the university system the extra $73 million they estimate is needed to avoid the fee increase.
“I think it wold be a major surprise if the state had an ability to do that facing a $10-billion deficit,” said Patrick Lenz, the university system’s assistant vice chancellor for the budget.
Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed noted that the situation could change by March, the deadline trustees set to make a final fee decision. But he said it would behoove the 450,000 students to “start thinking” about a possible fee increase.
Earlier this year, Cal State raised the basic full-time undergraduate fees for Californians by $252, or 10%, to $2,772. Additional campus fees average $749, bringing the total to $3,521, excluding room, board and books.
The average graduate student pays $4,163 before living costs and books.
University officials Tuesday reviewed a report that showed Cal State undergraduate fees are about half the average of the 15 other state universities surveyed around the nation.
However, that was little comfort to student leaders who stress that many Cal State students already have a difficult time making ends meet. And the prospect of another hike has already triggered complaints.
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who is an ex-officio trustee and also a member of the UC Board of Regents, urged both state university systems to limit any future fee increases to the rate of inflation, which the federal government reports is running about 3.6% this year. Under a 2004 agreement that UC and Cal State negotiated with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the two systems can raise fees as much as 10% a year.
Garamendi noted that fees have gone up more than 90% for Cal State and UC undergraduates since 2002.
In March, the UC Board of Regents raised fees 7% for most students, upping undergraduates’ costs to $7,347, not including housing and books. UC regents are scheduled to meet today and Thursday at UCLA but are not expected to decide fees for the 2008-09 school year for several months.
Ten-percent hikes for next year at Cal State, Garamendi said, would be “extraordinary, exorbitant and, I think, detrimental to the goal of this institution continuing to be an economic driver in the state of California.”
“This is no different from a tax increase,” added Garamendi, who attended the Long Beach meeting. “You are simply taxing the students.”
Roberta Achtenberg, chairwoman of the trustees, stressed that the two state university systems have been spared so far from the 10% budget reductions that the governor recently told state agencies to expect. But she said there is no guarantee that the reprieve would continue if the tax revenue situation deteriorates further.
“I have to decide what is the safest way to be a steward of the resources of this institution at this particular point in time,” she said, adding that the board has to consider fee hikes while hoping they can be avoided.