Op-ed on Tuition Increase

Last week, the California State University Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition for resident undergraduate students by $270 for the 2017-18 academic year, the first such increase since 2011.

It was not an easy decision for the trustees. However, they decided that it was a necessary step to provide the education that our students expect and deserve.

The trustees acted after Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposals provided the CSU with less than half of the funding increase we had requested to meet the needs of our growing student enrollment. As reported by the non-partisan California Budget and Policy Center, between 1980 and 2015 state support per student for the CSU dropped by 41% in inflation-adjusted dollars. Past tuition increases were aimed at partly compensating for this reduction instate funding.

The tuition increase just approved would raise about $77.5 million in additional revenue; the 60 percent of our students whose tuition is fully covered by grants and waivers would not be affected by the change. Eighty percent of CSU students receive some form of financial aid.

The governor’s proposed budget is not the last word; the legislature could raise the CSU allocation in the budget it submits to the governor in June.

The entire CSU community will work hard to make the case in Sacramento for full funding of the Trustees’ budget. The Trustees’resolution explicitly states that the tuition increase will be rescinded if their full request is funded by the state.

No one connected with the CSU is happy about the need to raise tuition. We are committed to student access and we recognize that any such increase creates a potential hardship for affected students.

At the same time, the CSU is committed, through its Graduation Initiative 2025, to doubling our four-year graduation rates by 2025. As part of that effort, we are strengthening student support programs, hiring faculty, and seeking to provide better access to more sections of necessary classes.

If the CSU can shorten the time to degree by only one semester, the savings for an individual student will be far greater than the cost of this tuition increase.

As for our students’ other living and educational expenses, we remain committed to providing affordable learning materials, affordable on-campus housing, and to addressing the issue of food insecurity that affects many students.

While the need to increase tuition in both the UC and CSU is unfortunate, we should not allow the potential increases to obscure a basic –and to many people, a surprising – fact. California remains one of the most affordable states in our nation to pursue a public higher education.

The College Affordability Diagnosis, issued last year by the Institute for Research on Higher Education, placed California fourth in college affordability among the 50 states.

The state’s excellent community college system was an important factor. Certainly, at CSUMB, we are working closely with our community college partners to provide efficient transfer pathways to a four-year degree.

The cost of a CSU education also plays a major role in that ranking.

Even with the tuition increase, total tuition and fees for in-state CSUMB students this coming academic year would be around $7,000.

According to the College Board, the nationwide average for tuition and fees at public four-year universities for 2016-17 was $9,650.

As a result, a far lower percentage of CSU students—about a third—take on student debt than the national average, and, among those that do, their overall debt load is about $10,000 less than the national average of graduates of four-year public universities.

Meanwhile, the value of a college degree continues to increase.

According to the “Education Pays” report issued by the College Board in 2016, the median earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients with no advanced degree working full time were $24,600 (67%) higher than those of high school graduates. Bachelor’s degree recipients paid an estimated $6,900 (91%) more in taxes and took home $17,700 (61%) more in after-tax income than high school graduates.

The report found that the unemployment rate for individuals age 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree has consistently been about half of the unemployment rate for high school graduates.

Those statistics only add to the urgency for our state to produce more college graduates.

The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California – in its report “Will California Run out of College Graduates?” -- said that the state faces a shortage of about 1.1 million college-educated workers by 2030.

So, maintaining access and affordability will only grow moreimportant.

If we work together to lobby our elected officials and fight for a fully funded CSU, we could potentially see the increase rescinded.

However, regardless of the outcome, we are committed to do everything we can to ensure an affordable and accessible experience for our Otters here at CSUMB.

(Published in the Salinas Californian and Monterey Herald)