On Nov. 13, the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees indefinitely postponed a vote on three proposed fee increases for the CSU system.
The fee increases, which were removed from the agenda to be considered at a later date, would have gone into effect beginning in fall 2013 if they were passed. The fee hikes are intended to increase new student enrollment in the CSU system by encouraging students to graduate in a “timely manner,” according to a CSU press release.
According to the press release, the three proposed increases include a graduation incentive fee, a third-tier tuition fee and a course repeat fee.
The graduation incentive fee would charge an additional cost per unit for students who have already taken 160 units. Starting in 2014, this cap would be lowered to 150 units. Eighty percent of CSU majors require 120 units, so these fees would apply to “super seniors,” or students who do not graduate in four years.
The third-tier tuition fee would place fees on each additional semester unit taken beyond 18 units. The average CSU student unit load is 12 units per semester. CSU tuition is set not per unit but by “tier,” with students taking less than six units a semester paying the first tier of tuition fees, and all other students taking more than six units per semester paying the second tier, or standard tuition.
As it stands, a student taking seven units will pay the same tuition as a student taking 18 units, but the proposal would add a “third tier” after 18 units with an additional charge for every unit thereafter.
The course repeat fee would charge an extra fee for students who are repeating a course. According to CSU estimates, 10 percent of undergraduates are repeating a course each semester, which translates to about 40,000 seats in classes statewide being held by students who have already taken the course.
Students who fall into these categories will only be charged one of the three fees, not all of them at the same time. The implementation of the fees would allow for 18,000 additional students to be enrolled in the CSU system each year.
The proposals were met with protest by students in the CSU system.
“I believe it’s unfair to raise tuition for students who are taking longer to graduate, while at the same time cutting funding for the classes and programs people need to graduate in their major,” said Michaela Mackenzie, a second-year biological anthropology major at San Francisco State. “Nobody wants to take extra time to graduate.”
These “price signals,” according to the press release, are intended to lead to “better decision-making by students” when signing up for classes and therefore freeing up seats. This would allow more students to enroll.
“The logic seems completely backwards,” Mackenzie said.
Gov. Jerry Brown attended the meeting in Long Beach, according to a media advisory from the governor’s office. He thanked the board for postponing the vote and allowing further time for consideration, according to Laurel Rosenhall, Capitol Alert blogger for the Sacramento Bee.
Brown also thanked those at the meeting for their help in passing Proposition 30, which will provide the CSU system with an additional $125 million. He acknowledged that the proposition is not a cure-all solution and that public education in California will still face challenges.
In the University of California (UC) system, it does not appear that similar graduation incentive fees will be proposed anytime soon.
“In my tenure with the UC, which goes back to 1998, I don’t think the Regents have ever taken this issue up,” said Chris Carter, director of budget operations and administrative budget for the UC Davis Budget & Institutional Analysis office. “I’m not aware of these types of fees going before the Regents in my tenure, and I also do not recall university leaders ever discussing such fees. The UC has not adopted differential tuition for students who are repeating a course.”
A UC Davis student echoed the sentiments of CSU students.
“Tuition fees are increasing exponentially,” said Douglass Taber, a fifth-year political science major. “I don’t think it’s fair to ask students to take more out of their pockets.”
MEREDITH STURMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.