Students across the California State University system’s 23 campuses will likely have annual tuition increases beginning in the fall 2024 semester, pending approval from the Board of Trustees, a vote that’s set for Wednesday, Sept. 13.
The proposed tuition increases, which includes an annual 6% bump in the cost of education over the next five years, were originally approved by the board’s Committee on Finance in July — despite concerns from students and faculty alike that the additional costs would limit access to what has historically been the state’s most affordable higher education system.
CSU officials, though, say the tuition increases — the first since the 2011-12 academic year — are necessary to cover $1.5 billion in unfunded operational costs in the system’s budget.
The massive funding gap was first identified by a CSU workgroup report released in May, which found that the CSU only has enough money to pay for about 85% of the actual costs of education, institutional and academic support, and student services for its more than 460,000 students at all 23 campuses.
The CSU budget is primarily funded from two sources: California’s budget and tuition revenues. Neither of those, though, have kept up with the ever-increasing costs of operating the nation’s largest state university system, according to the May report. About 60% of the CSU’s operating budget is funded by the state; the remaining 40% comes from tuition revenue.
And though California Gov. Gavin Newsom has agreed to a funding compact with the CSU that will provide a 5% annual boost to its annual budget — amounting to a $227.3 million increase for this fiscal year — officials say it isn’t nearly enough to bridge the funding gap, especially because the state’s resources are dependent on numerous external factors.
State funding for the CSU’s operating budget, for example, has decreased from about 90% in the 1980s to about 60% now. Coupled with stagnant tuition rates, officials said previously, the CSU is simply running out of money to provide services at the level expected.
The last tuition hike — which was 5%, or $270 a semester — came during the 2011-12 academic year.
The new tuition increases, 6% annually through the 2028-29 academic year, equate to about an additional $342 for undergraduate tuition, bringing the fall 2024 semester total to $6,084. That doesn’t include the cost of housing, food, academic supplies and other basic necessities.
By the spring 2029 semester, full-time undergrads would be required to pay $7,682 for the academic year, while higher-level programs, such as a doctorate in public health, would total about $25,000 per year.
The five-year tuition increase proposal is expected to generate about $860 million over its first five years. If approved, the board would be required to review and re-approve any additional increases after the first five years and the CSU would be responsible for ensuring the extra funding is being used for its intended purposes.
To that end, about $280 million of new anticipated revenue — or around one-third — would fund financial aid for students with the most need, according to the CSU.
The CSU, in its report, said that the proposed tuition increases wouldn’t change it status as among the most affordable higher education systems in the country. It also added that about 60% of its student population would be unaffected by the change because of grants or fee waivers — though students and faculty have questioned the validity of that..
CSU students receive about $1 billion in federal Pell Grants annually.
The system’s student assistants, who are in the process of forming a labor union, said they’ll be subjected to a sort of double jeopardy if the tuition hikes are increased.
“Student Assistants work because they need the money to get by. Not only are they paid minimum wage without benefits,” San Francisco State University professor John Logan said in a Friday, Sept. 8 news release, “their financial insecurity is now compounded by tuition increases.”
Professors from across the CSU, alongside students, have also voiced their concerns about the proposal, arguing that it could put an undue burden on students already struggling to make ends meet.
The remainder of the additional revenue expected to be generated by the tuition icnrease, meanwhile, would be used to expand the work of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025 — which aims to increase graduation rates for first-time and transfer students — alongside pay raises for the CSU workforce, academic facility and infrastructure upgrades, plans to boost enrollment, and other operational costs.
The board is set to vote on the proposal during its Wednesday, Sept. 13, meeting at the CSU Chancellor’s Office, 401 Golden Shore, in Long Beach. The meeting starts at 8 a.m. and will also be livestreamed.