Trustees approve tuition increase despite fierce protests, opposition

Amid boisterous student protests and stern warnings from elected officials not to raise student tuition, CSU Trustees ignored the pleas to maintain accessibility to the People’s University and approved the fee increase.

The 5% tuition hike, which amounts to $270 annually per undergraduate student, was the topic of fierce debate during today’s meeting in Long Beach. But ultimately, the increase was approved in an 11-8 vote.

Trustees Silas Abrego, Douglas Faigin, Hugo Morales, Lateefah Simon, Maggie White, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson voted against the increase.

“We are very appreciative that many of the Trustees, including those who voted to honor the experience of students on the campuses, recognize the continuing and increasing financial burdens they face,” said CFA President Jennifer Eagan. “The Trustees who voted for the increase have abdicated their responsibility to the students and relieved the legislature of their responsibility for funding the People’s University. This is the wrong strategy at the wrong time.”

Click here to read CFA’s statement on the tuition increase.

During the Finance Committee’s discussion of the proposal to increase tuition, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the Board has become predictable, “excellent sheep” when it comes to doing more with less state funding.

“If you want something to change, you have to do something differently,” Newsom said. “I don’t want to let you off the hook. I don’t want to let the Governor off the hook next time. We need to advocate for the money. The best approach to advocacy is saying no to the tuition increase at this time.”

Speaker Anthony Rendon also told the Board he planned to reject the tuition increase.

“To be fully funded two years ago and come back and say that the students need to pay more in additional tuition is absurd and grotesque,” Rendon said. “This is the sort of ‘passing the buck’ that we see in Washington. We can do better than that and we should do better than that. And I will not support this.“

Dozens of students from throughout the state shared stories of hardship, urging Trustees to reject the fees.

“None of you sitting here in these chairs know what it’s like to be a student during these times. To juggle work and school and family obligations. None of you know what it’s like to use your limited funds to buy textbooks or groceries. I know what it is like,” said Steven Gomez, a San Francisco State graduate student, adding that he had to live in his car while maintaining a 3.7 GPA.

“By increasing tuition, you’re condoning the actions of the state and not upholding obligations to quality education.”

Students for Quality Education (SQE) members were at the Chancellor’s Office before dawn, dressed in graduation caps and gowns and greeting Trustees as they walked into the building with signs and protesting. Energetic chants of “The more we pay, the longer we stay!” and “Chancellor White, do what’s right!” echoed through the meeting chambers, at times forcing Trustees to pause their comments.

Alejandro Alfaro, a Chico State student, pointed out that over the past 30 years, as the CSU has become darker, funding has become lighter.

“The CSU is not for the rich and white. It’s the People’s University, and we’re the people as well,” he said. “The tuition increase is one more debt for me and compared to my peers, I’m privileged. Many have the to work two or three jobs to get by and have enormous debt and are still trying to be full-time students. For them, the increase means having to take on another job, more debt, and realistically, not being able to return for another semester.”

Several CFA leaders and community allies also insisted Trustees reject the increase during public comment.

“I know it’s not the easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do and the courageous thing to do,” said Darel Engen, CFA Chapter President and an Associate Professor of History at CSU San Marcos. “You don’t want to push—really push—the Legislature and the Governor to adequately fund the CSU… It’s so much easier to impose a tuition hike on students, but it wouldn’t be right and it would be weak, weak, weak, weak. I can’t tell you how weak you look to our students.”

DeWayne Sheaffer, President of the National Council for Higher Education, told Trustees the tuition increase will hurt both current and future students.

“This fee hike hurts. This fee hike is not right and in my opinion of serving 21 years as a faculty member at Long Beach City College and 13 years as an employee of the CSU working in Admissions and Records, I see this first hand that students are working hard to get through the pipeline because we know that education is definitely an equalizer,” he said. “This fee hike is not right. This fee hike is not right.”

CFA is sponsoring legislation that seeks to halt tuition increases in the CSU and state community colleges until 2020, and will be fighting for increased funding for the CSU from the state.

Assembly Bill 393 is authored by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, who on Tuesday sent a letter to Trustees urging them to reconsider raising fees. Quirk-Silva had bipartisan support from fellow lawmakers, and the letter included the signatures of 24 other members of the Assembly.