CSU trustees vote to boost student fees 5%

LONG BEACH -- California State University trustees on Friday voted to boost student fees by 5% for fall 2010, saying it is the only way to absorb deep funding cuts and reduced enrollment.

The board raised fees for in-state undergraduate and graduate students at a special meeting in Long Beach. The rate increases mean a $204 jump to $4,230 a year for resident undergraduates.

Teacher credential students will see their fees rise $234 to $4,908 annually, while graduate student fees will go up $252 to $5,214.

This is the seventh fee increase in eight years for the 23-campus university system, which educates about 433,000 students a year. It comes on top of a 32%, or $978, fee increase in 2009.

Pedro Ramirez, president of the Associated Students Inc. at Fresno State, pointed to those repeated price hikes in expressing disappointment in the latest increase.

"It's pretty devastating," he said. "For me and many other students, it's discouraging when you know that when you enter college, you're going to have to pay more every year."

Even with Friday's vote, the fee issue may not be settled for the year.

"The board's decision to limit the student fee increase to 5% is based on the Assembly budget proposal that provides additional state revenues. It will allow us to move forward with adding classes and sections for students this fall," said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

Trustees could revisit fee levels in November if the budget falls short.

State officials now are faced with several proposals for CSU funding.

A proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to restore more than $300 million in state support assumed there would be a fee increase of 10% -- twice as high as the hike passed Friday.

A similar state Senate proposal assumed a higher increase as well, said Robert Turnage, the CSU system's assistant vice chancellor for budget.

The Assembly proposal reflected a 5% increase and would provide more state revenue for the CSU budget.

University officials, grappling with state budget cuts of more than $625 million in the past two years, said the system offers many financial aid options.

In 2009-10, half of all CSU undergraduates received aid to cover all their fees.

On average, factoring in financial aid, families earning $70,000 or less a year will not pay any undergraduate fees.

Fresno State president John Welty said about 80% of students on campus receive some form of financial aid, which should help cushion the new fee levels.

The increase won't head off campus cuts -- including about 50 layoffs -- planned for the 2010-11 academic year, he said.

Officials already had crafted a budget based on the governor's proposal.

Welty said the increase approved by trustees "is a helpful first step so that we can serve students this fall."

But if legislators don't find that second 5%, he said trustees "likely will have to address the issue again in November."

Trustees voted 10-2, with one abstention, to adopt the undergraduate fee increase.

Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Russel Statham, the student trustee attending his final meeting, cast dissenting votes, and Margaret Fortune abstained.

Trustees voted 11-2 to increase fees by 10% for doctoral education students, with Statham and Maldonado casting dissenting votes.

Statham, who last month was awarded his master's degree in business administration at Fresno State, said he opposed higher fees because the CSU system hasn't considered other revenue sources -- such as an expansion of online degree programs or a new tax on natural gas and oil extraction.

"When it comes right down to it, I don't think we've explored all of our options," he said.

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