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CSU student fees take 20 percent hike
University budget plan includes furloughs, layoffs and enrollment cuts
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi speaks with students outside the CSU Chancellor’s office who were among the hundreds of students present to protest the student fee increase. - photo by Photo Contributed
In the wake of waning state monetary support, the California State University Board of Trustees took action Tuesday to close a $584 million budget gap and voted to raise student fees by an unprecedented 20 percent.
The budget action plan approved by the Board also calls for employee furloughs, workforce reductions and enrollment cuts.
With hundreds of students protesting outside the Chancellor’s office in Long Beach, and the audience inside the forum chanting “No — shame on you,” the Board voted 17 to 1 to adopt the proposed student fee increase.
Effective in fall 2009, full-time fees will increase by $672 for undergraduate students, $780 for teacher credential students and $828 for graduate students. This increase is in addition to the $306 fee increase for full-time undergraduates that was adopted in May. The undergraduate State University Fee will go up from the current $3,354 to $4,026 per year. Including the current average campus fee of $801, CSU undergraduate students will pay approximately $4,827 per year.
“There has never been such a steep drop in state support in such a short amount of time,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “We are in the midst of a financial meltdown and need to take immediate action in order to preserve our institutions. We have developed an overall plan to get us through the next two years that both reduces expenditures and increases revenues. Raising student fees is always a difficult decision, and we recognize the tremendous burden and challenge it places on our students.”
CSU Stanislaus spokesperson Kristin Olsen said the decision to increase fees was an unfortunate one, but also one that had to be made.
“Raising fees is always a difficult decision to make, but the massive state budget cuts we are facing leaves the CSU system without any other choice,” Olsen said. “Had they not voted to increase fees they would have to limit enrollment even more dramatically, and/or cut more courses.”
The lone dissenting vote came from Trustee Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who asked the Board to support a proposal for an oil severance tax that he said could be used to generate revenue for California’s institutions of higher learning.
“I’ve never been one to retreat. However, for two-and-a-half years, and actually a little longer than that, the higher education system has been in full retreat,” said Garamendi, who is also a University of California regent. “Now, what do we do about it? Turn tail and run as we have for so many years here or do we stand and fight and move forward? There is an option, there is an opportunity, and I urge this board and all in higher education to do something positive, rather than just on the negative side. We could impose an oil severance tax on oil extracted from the state of California. Over a billion dollars a year, made available to higher education. If this university were to take roughly half of that, the problem that we are facing today would be eliminated.”
The fee increase will generate approximately $236 million, and of that, $79 million will be set aside for financial aid. The remaining $157 million will be used to reduce the budget gap.
According to the CSU, more than 187,000 CSU students will pay no fee increase due to increases in the State University Grants, federal grants, CSU fee waivers, and newly expanded federal tax credits. Also, the CSU is expecting the federal stimulus package will provide an additional $81 million for 120,000 of the CSU’s neediest students. Overall, factoring in financial aid, families who make $75,000 or less will not pay any fees, said CSU spokesperson Claudia Keith.
The Board also voted to increase non-resident tuition fees to $11,160, effective fall 2009. Nonresident students pay nonresident tuition in addition to the State University Fee and mandatory campus-based fees. The total fees for full-time nonresident undergraduates will increase to about $15,987 per academic year. The increase will add another $11.5 million in revenue that will go towards the budget deficit.
In addition to having to pay higher fees, new and transfer students at the CSU’s 23 campuses are going to be dealing with stricter enrollment requirements. The CSU system plans to reduce enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years, and has closed spring 2010 admissions completely. The enrollment cuts are expected to be implemented through a combination of enrollment management tools like increased admissions criteria for out-of-area students and earlier deadlines.
Hoping to create space in the classrooms for new and continuing students, the Board approved a change to state regulations that will give university presidents the authority to bar students who have already met all their necessary degree requirements from enrolling in additional courses, and instead confer their degrees upon them.
The board also approved changes to state regulations that will allow management and non-represented employees to be furloughed two days per month beginning on Aug. 1. According to the CSU, approximately 85 percent of their budget costs are employee salaries and benefits. The CSU is asking all of its 47,000 employees, except public safety personnel, to furlough as a way to protect the maximum number of jobs. If all of the 47,000 employees were to furlough, it would generate $275 million in savings for the CSU system.
The California State University Employees Union, which represents 16,000 non-academic employees, has ratified a furlough agreement. The one-year contract, decided by a membership vote, calls for up to 24 furlough days for full-time 12-month employees between Aug. 1, and June 30, 2010.
“This was a difficult choice for our members” said CSUEU President Pat Gantt. “They are facing very challenging times, yet also understand the gravity of the budget crisis and want to play a role in its resolution.
“We have received a lot of feedback from our members throughout this process. They have shown their willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. While we are heartened to have saved thousands of jobs, we will remain vigilant.”
Members of the California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 faculty, is holding a vote of its members on whether to negotiate a furlough option and the results of the vote are expected later this week. The United Physicians and Dentists,  with 117 members, has agreed to furloughs and several other small labor unions have either chosen to negotiate furloughs or have chosen layoffs per their contract, Keith said.
Chancellor Reed set a deadline of  5 p.m. Tuesday for all labor units to make a decision on the furlough option.
Even after accounting for expenditure reductions from employee furloughs and revenue from the adopted fee increases, CSU campuses and the Chancellor’s office will be asked to cut an additional $183 million from their 2009-10 budgets, Keith said.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.