CFA members, CSU students, and other CSU workers rallied together at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach to protest a 6% multi-year tuition increase.
Outside the Chancellor’s Office, students, faculty, and staff gathered together holding up signs emphasizing and drawing attention to the destructive nature of the tuition increase. Boisterous chants of “Stop the tuition hike” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down” were interwoven with sessions of spirited live music reverberating in all directions.
Speaking to the solidarity he witnessed, Isaac Shannon, a Students for Quality Education (SQE) intern and graduate student at CSU Dominguez Hills, stated that “it’s really important that we have collaboration with faculty members because our collective effort shows that we are united to stop this tuition hike and make our voices known.”
Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis was one of hundreds present at the rally. With a megaphone in hand, she urged the CSU trustees to vote “No” on the tuition increase.
During public comment, almost every student shared heart-wrenching, deeply personal stories about how the tuition hike would grievously affect them. Faculty and staff also made their voices heard about how the proposal demonstrates a lack of regard for student welfare.
“You have taken a position through your actions that the realities, experiences, and dignity of who truly represents the CSU is not significant. You have sanctioned ‘othering’ us as non-human! For what purpose? To justify forsaking our lives and to justify forsaking students their opportunities to access and equity,” said CFA Vice President Margarita Berta-Ávila.
“How is that the money we pay does not go toward our education? How is it that our money is being put into the 28% raise of one person that the average student does not see at all? If money is stopping people from getting an education, then why are you increasing our tuition?” said Lexie Orr, a former SQE intern and CSU Long Beach student.
Jack Welch, another SQE intern and CSU Dominguez Hills student, spoke out about the CSU’s hypocrisy, “You watch your students sleep in cars from the comfort of your gated communities. You looked at this present crisis of mismanagement and decided that students are the ones responsible to cover the cost of your administrative incompetence, that the students living off fifty cent noodles should pay before the millionaire chancellor eating steak and salmon. This is a crisis of mismanagement, not underfunding.”
Welch was speaking to the experiences of many CSU students who must work two or three jobs to afford their education. One such struggling student was his peer, Joshua Gallardo. “I can’t cover the basis of tuition as it is. Last semester I had three jobs and during the semester I had to drop a class to continue working my jobs. Please stop the tuition hikes.”
SQE intern and CSU Long Beach student spoke to CSU’s lack of compassion. “They don’t care if we have to take another job. They don’t care that our grants and financial aid will run dry later.”
“Students deserve real leadership. If the Chancellor’s Office and the CSU trustees truly cared about public comment, all they would need to do is get out of the comfort of their chairs that our students paid for, go outside, and stop letting our pleas go in one ear and out the other,” said CFA member and CSU Dominguez Hills lecturer Maria Fisher.
Public comments lasted three hours.
Speaking to the rally attendees, CFA President Charles Toombs said, “Everything you did today rocked. It was the best I have ever seen. You argued with logic, with emotion, you told your stories.”
Unfortunately, despite the monumental efforts and stories shared by students, faculty, and staff, the CSU Board of Trustees made the decision to approve the tuition increase proposal anyway. This means that tuition will increase by 34% over five years by the 2028-29 school year.
Before the decision was made, CSU Fullerton graduate student and CSU trustee Jonathan Molina Mancio shared sobering stories about his fellow peers who have had to endure extraordinary challenges to get their lives back on track. But Molina Mancio pointed out that “the CSU let them in, because there is nothing like the CSU and how it can impact the lives of our students.” He expressed the need for the CSU to do a better job at state advocacy and urged the Board of Trustees to find other means to fund the CSU.
Molina Mancio was one of five CSU trustees to vote “No” on the proposal.
Lieutenant Governor and Ex Officio Trustee Elani Kounalakis urged the CSU trustees to really consider the consequences of approving the proposal. She said, “We are talking about 184,000 students who will have to pay these increases directly if they are implemented. We have done no work, no study, no data collecting on what that increase will mean to our student body. Our students come from families that cannot afford traditionally private universities or other public university systems.”
Kounalakis was another CSU trustee to vote “No” on the proposal.