CSU students may face fee increases

California State University students could face another fee hike this academic year despite an improved budget for the 23-campus system.

The CSU hasn't ruled out a second rate increase because the new state spending plan -- even with nearly $260 million in additional cash -- still falls short. Claudia Keith, a spokeswoman for the CSU, said officials "just don't know yet" whether fees need to rise this year.

Board members left open that possibility in June when they boosted fees by 5% for undergraduate and graduate students in fall 2010.

A 10% increase was on the table, but trustees halved that based on an Assembly budget proposal that promised to make up the difference.

But the state budget finalized this month didn't include the $50 million the system would net from the higher rate.

Trustees meeting next month will discuss the 2011-12 budget.

Any discussion of higher fees for the current year would take place then, Keith said.

At Fresno State, students say they hope rates aren't ticking up again.

Pedro Ramirez, president of the Associated Students at Fresno State, said he isn't sure what to expect but hopes trustees "will be content with the [state] budget that was passed."

Several students say it's tough to manage even at today's academic price.

"It's hard," said freshman Zoua Xiong, 18, of Fresno. "Everyone is struggling right now."

The 433,000-student CSU has increasingly turned to student fees as a way to help manage budget stress. Over the past two years, for example, the system has absorbed roughly $625 million in state funding cuts.

CSU responded partly by reducing enrollment, laying off staff and increasing student fees.

The fee hike approved this summer was the seventh in eight years, and it followed a 32% increase in 2009-10.

The new state budget is something of a turnaround. For the CSU, it restores $199 million in past cuts and also provides $60.6 million for enrollment growth.

In addition, the CSU recently received $106 million in one-time federal stimulus cash to help with payroll.

That frees up other money from the state and student fees to admit additional students and restore some courses lost in budget cuts.

While the budget is better this year, CSU officials note that costs -- such as energy bills and health benefits -- continue to rise, and that stimulus cash won't be around next year.

This year's $2.62 billion in state funding is about the same level as 2005-06, they said.