High cost of college the focus of CFA resolution, new legislation package by CA Assembly Democrats

The soaring cost of higher education and crippling amounts of debt facing students garnered much attention this week as CFA passed a resolution calling for tuition-free access to the CSU and lawmakers proposed a legislation package aimed at reducing the financial burden for the state’s public college students.

Delegates to the 85th CFA Assembly gathered in San Diego March 10-11 and approved a resolution calling for the union to support efforts to “Secure clear, unfettered, and tuition-free access for all CSU students eligible under the California Master Plan for Higher Education.”

The resolution also calls for maintaining high-quality education in the CSU and ensuring that each CSU student graduate at a pace that accords with their personal goals, without debt, and ready to embark on their career path…” 

“Our resolution reflects the experience of faculty and students in the classroom. We realize that our students’ economic conditions become part of our working conditions when they need to skip a semester because they can’t afford tuition or need to work more and more hours to survive while trying to keep up in their classes,” said Jennifer Eagan, CFA President and a Professor at Cal State East Bay.

“When students experience precarious housing situations and food insecurity, there is something deeply wrong with this picture. We have seen students being pushed to the financial brink, and we’re joining with them to push back against years of bad budgets and bad policies that have gotten us to this point,” she said. “This resolution is about creating the conditions for genuine student success.”

Discussion surrounding the idea of debt-free college continued this week as Assembly Democrats announced a legislative package aimed at creating a financial aid plan to help decrease the economic burden for CSU, UC, and Community College students and their families.

CFA issued a statement about the proposal, expressing interest in working more with lawmakers involved, and working with legislation that would protect current students from financial hardship, such as the bill authored by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva that would hold tuition flat until 2020. Click here to read the full statement.

Nick Baham, CFA Chapter President at Cal State East Bay, testified to members of the California Assembly Budget Sub 2 Committee—who were discussing the legislative package proposal—that while the debt-free plan sounds encouraging, tuition in the CSU must not increase. CSU Trustees are voting next week on whether to raise tuition by 5% annually per student.

The real problem, Baham said, is that state funding for the CSU has continually fallen short of the need, and that has a very real impact on students. If tuition had kept pace with inflation, students would be paying $1,519 in tuition and fees, when in truth, they’re paying about 4.5 times that amount.

“The long-term shortfall in state funding that has accumulated over the years has massive implications for our students, including the inability to get into the CSU and skyrocketing tuition costs—in fact, tuition costs have grown over 923% over the past 30 years. So you see, there’s a changing definition of affordability in our system.

“I know many of you are aware that 8 to 12% of our student population are homeless and 25% face food insecurity. So (with) fee increases looming in the CSU—the Board of Trustees vote March 22—it’s very clear that first tuition has to stay flat,” Baham said.

Click here to read Baham’s full comments or to watch his testimony.