Last month, the California State University Board of Trustees voted 17 to 1 to increase state university fees for the 2009-2010 academic school year.
The vote slashed state funding for higher education by 20 percent. Full-time students will now be asked to pay nearly $5,000 to make up for the CSUâ€™s $584 million shortage.
Since the vote, held on July 21 at the CSUâ€™s Chancellorâ€™s office in Long Beach, tuition has risen to $4,673 for students this year, a 32 percent increase from last year. Fees for full-time undergraduate students carrying 6 or more units are up $672, $780 for teacher credential students and $828 for graduate students â€” the increase comes on top of the $306 fee implemented in May.
Full-time non-residential students will pay an increased fee of $372 per unit in addition to the mandatory registration and course fees, upwards of $11,160 per academic year.
CSU Trustee and former Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president Russell Statham voted in favor of the fee hike, despite protests and less than favorable feedback from students. Statham said that his vote was the unpopular choice, but in weighing his decisions it was the least harmful alternative.
â€œAt the human level, it was the most difficult decision Iâ€™ve ever had to make,â€ said Statham, who is also a graduate student at Fresno State. â€œIâ€™ve heard the stories and I have seen the tears firsthand, and itâ€™s been really emotional.â€
Prior to casting his vote, Statham said he examined statistics and other measures but felt that a vote against the fee increase would have been far worse for students in the long run.
â€œI looked at what would happen if we were forced to close campuses due to budget restraints, which was a very real option at the time,â€ Statham said. â€œAt the end of the day one of two decisions had to be made. This was the one with the least amount of impact.â€
However, some students would disagree, as many have had to find secondary sources of income, take out additional loans or cut back on spending to meet the fee increase.
For students, the fiscal retrenchments at universities mean larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, and workforce reductions that could limit access to faculty and student resources like the library, which reduced its hours this year.
Additionally, thousands of prospective students will be turned away from admission. Fresno State admitted 1,450 new students last spring, according to a July 9 press release. This spring semester, for the first time in university history, Fresno State will freeze admissions.
On average, the CSU admits 35,000 freshman, graduate and transfer students. However, for the past several years the CSU has exceeded the state funding received for each student. In response, the CSU will admit 40,000 fewer students over the next two years.
Many of the cuts put into effect consigned the universityâ€™s academic offerings to less than normal, as Fresno State must meet a total campus budget reduction of $44.6 million.
The cash-strapped CSU system reflects California legislatorsâ€™ inability to reach an agreement with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over how to address the states budget deficit.
In the span of two months, state legislature held multiple closed-door sessions. Several of these ended in a stalemate as assembly members inched slowly towards a plan to close the stateâ€™s $26 billion shortfall. The plan included a $3 billion cut to higher education.
Associated Students, Inc. president Jessica Sweeten said no good decisions have come from the meetings and that the state dropped support to the CSU this year by not paying its portion of the $584 million deficit.
â€œThe problem lies in Sacramento and legislators need to practice bipartisanship,â€ Sweeten said. â€œStudents have taken a hit. And this will continue to get worse if things in Sacramento donâ€™t improve.â€
The state general fund support for the CSU is expected to be $1.6 billion. Which is $500 million below the level of state support provided a decade ago, according to official estimates.
Yet, as steep reductions continue to beset higher education, CSU officials have attempted to mitigate the impacts of fee increases by setting aside $79 million to cover financial aid. University officials expect additional aid from the federal stimulus package, federal tax credits, and Pell Grant Awards to help offset the fee increase for the most needy of the CSUâ€™s 450,000 total students.
Despite the jarring cuts to the CSU, Sweeten reassures that the budget crisis will not affect ASIâ€™s ability to govern at the student level.
â€œWe will still fund events and students clubs in order to help the morale of the campus,â€ Sweeten said. â€œWe hope to see Fresno State grow stronger this year, even during this time of struggle.â€