CFA Chapter President to Lawmakers: Debt free plan encouraging, tuition needs to remain flat

CFA Chapter President to Lawmakers: Debt free plan encouraging, tuition needs to remain flat

CFA East Bay Chapter President Nick Baham testified to members of the California Assembly Budget Sub 2 Committee about the impact of college costs and student debt during a hearing on education finance on Tuesday, March 14. 

The hearing, held at the State Capitol, examined education finance regarding a new legislative package unveiled by Assembly Democrats this week, which would create a “Degrees Not Debt” scholarship program and a pathway to debt free education for students attending the CSU, UC, and Community College systems.

The following is Baham’s testimony to lawmakers:

“We at CFA have been working very hard towards free public higher education.

CFA is very excited about this proposal, as we have seen the impact of cost on our students. We know the CSU has not been invested in properly in the past 30 years. I would specifically draw your attention to our research piece, “Equity Interrupted,” which covers that and covers the link between the diversification of the CSU in terms of our student body over the past 30 years.

As we stand ready to work with the Assembly, we really want to take the time to thank you in making sure that the fees are not increased this year. We’re talking about the vote that will take place March 22. CFA also has sponsored AB 393.

Now, speaking as a concerned parent, I have a young man who is entering high school and very much wants to study engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I’m in a fairly common situation as a professor, where although I work in the system, I’m struggling to put aside money for my child to be able to go to college in the system.

I should add that part of the reason why I’m here and have dedicated my life to this CSU is both of my parents have degrees from san Francisco State University. But obviously at a time when it was much more affordable to attend San Francisco State University.

A couple of things that I think are important to think about here — despite regular and large tuition fees and hikes, these haven’t really made up for the funding difference for the CSU.

State funding and tuition increases combined only increased CSU funding by 41.5% in real inflation-adjusted dollars. Actually, if tuition had simply kept pace with inflation, students would be paying $1,519 in tuition and fees. Instead, they’re paying about 4.5 times that amount.

And 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 as the fee increases are looming in the CSU – for the board of trustees vote march 22 – it’s very clear that first tuition has to stay flat. Again I want to thank the committee members to committing to voting against that tuition increase. Certainly my students are organizing to defeat this. I also wan to thank Assembly Democrats and Speaker Rendon for their leadership, for prioritizing college affordability, and I want to thank Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva for authoring AB 393. Thank you.”

*Video of Baham’s testimony was captured courtesy of the California Assembly Committee Hearing live recording.