News Release

When Chancellor Refuses to Pay Cal State Faculty Fair Wages, He Is Hurting Students, Too


  • Faculty pay has stagnated long term, even as student tuition skyrocketed 283%
  • Impact of lagging pay has faculty seeking other work, other places to teach
  • More students per faculty member means larger classes, less time to help
  • The public ‘People’s University’ is suffering in its primary mission to teach


The California State University is known as “The People’s University” because of its mission to make four-year degrees possible for every Californian willing and able to do the work to earn one. The purpose of the CSU is to help students become middle-class, college-educated people who can advance California’s economy and democracy.

But that purpose is in danger.

While the contract dispute between CSU faculty and the university’s management is narrowly defined over long-term stagnant faculty pay, there is a wider, long-simmering controversy fueling this dispute—that is how management practices undermine the teaching workforce Cal State needs to live up to its core mission to teach.

Paramount in the dispute is how students are served, and in particular, how they, along with the faculty, are treated as graduation metrics and sources of fees, rather than as people trying to achieve their dreams—which is the very reason the Cal State system exists in the first place.


As students come to learn more about the direction of the CSU, support has mounted for the California Faculty Association’s announcement that it is preparing for a five-day strike in April on all 23 CSU campuses. A strike will happen if CFA can’t reach an agreement with California State University (CSU) management.

What are students realizing?

  • That their own success in getting a quality education depends on their teachers. And this is even more so in a university that serves working people, first generation college students, and those who would not have the resources to go to college if not for publicly supported higher education .
  • That even as they strive for education to make their own place in the middle class, the faculty who teach them are falling out of the middle class due to stagnant pay and temporary hiring practices.
  • That over the last decade, CSU executives and managers have quietly handed themselves significant pay raises and created more managerial jobs at a faster rate than the increase in full-time equivalent faculty.

Students are realizing that you can’t put students first if you put faculty last.

“When faculty pay is low and the number of students we each try to teach is high, the CSU cannot attract and retain the best teachers. That is unfair to students and to the future of California,” said CFA President Jennifer Eagan, a CSU East Bay Professor. 

“It is time to come to grips with the simple fact that faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. A faculty member struggling to make ends meet for his or her own family does not have the energy and support to give our students all the attention they deserve.”


Skyrocketing student debt is a national challenge. Since the CSU—“the People’s University” originally envisioned to be free —serves a broad swath of students including those with low incomes and with families of their own, the tuition and fees is a huge issue. Since 2000, CSU student tuition and fees have risen an astounding 283%.

There is no correlation, however, between what the faculty are paid and these huge increases in costs to students. The CSU’s own data shows that from 2005 to 2015, faculty salaries were flat.

See a graph illustrating this point at

The loss of purchasing power due to inflation means thousands of CSU faculty increasingly cannot afford to live near where they teach, a situation aggravated by California’s expensive housing markets.

Read CFA’s paper “Race to the Bottom: CSU’s 10-year Failure to Fund its Core Mission,” which provides an in-depth analysis of the problem at

At public appearances in recent weeks, CSU Chancellor Timothy White admonished faculty they must “make ends meet” by learning to live with their declining purchasing power.

“A man who earns more than California’s governor, gets a free house and car, and has generous retirement benefits at his disposal may just not be able to ‘get’ us,” said Eagan. “We want to devote ourselves to teaching, and all we ask is that we be able to support our families and live a middle class life, the same life we hope our students will attain.”

Chancellor White earns in excess of $400,000 a year—in line with the president of the United States. The 23 CSU campus presidents and other executives earn in the hundreds of thousands as well, also with free homes, cars, and other executive benefits.


A growing number of faculty members, particularly those offered only part-time temporary contracts by CSU management, rely on public assistance and food stamps to make ends meet.  Still more work multiple jobs miles from campus, which limits the time they can devote to CSU students.

“When faculty are worrying about bankruptcy, making rent, choosing which bill to pay (or not pay), and losing the time it takes to get to our second or third job, we realize that our students are not getting the best from us,” said Molly Talcott, CFA Secretary and President of the CFA Chapter at Cal State L.A.

“We want to be there for them. This so-called ‘business model’ is not putting our students and our mission to teach first,” Talcott said.

The CSU management’s rapid increase in hiring of faculty on temporary contracts, most of them on a part-time basis at much lower pay than faculty in permanent positions, has reached the point where 60 percent of CSU faculty now teach on these terms, in the role called “lecturer.”

Most lecturers are paid only for teaching classes, not for curriculum development or for research and creative activity. The declining number of permanent, tenured and tenure-track faculty must then strive to provide advising and support for increasing numbers of students.

“It has become clear over the past 10 years that students and the faculty they rely on are not the top priorities of CSU executives.” said Kevin Wehr, Chair of CFA’s Bargaining Team and a Sociology Professor at Sacramento State.

Wehr added, “I believe this is why we face such resistance at the bargaining table.  Management is forcing us to choose between providing quality teaching for our students and supporting our families. And we won’t make that choice. We are going on strike.”

BACKGROUND ON THE FIGHT FOR FIVE: The California Faculty Association, which represents CSU faculty, is engaged in a “Fight for Five” — meaning a 5% General Salary Increase for all faculty — with CSU management. In October, faculty voted to strike if contract negotiations with management fail to result in a fair deal.

ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA FACULTY ASSOCIATION: CFA represents more than 26,000 tenured and tenure-track instructional faculty, lecturers, librarians, counselors, and coaches on the 23 campuses of the California State University system, from Humboldt State in the north, to San Diego State in the south. Learn more about CFA at