For a little more than a decade, students who enrolled at San Jose State University and the other California State University campuses could count on one thing in the uncertain years of higher education: They likely wouldn’t have to pay more in tuition each year.
Students at SJSU often juggle part-time jobs and struggle with unaffordable long-distance housing, usually taking at least five years to get a degree, so keeping tuition stable often means the difference between finishing a degree or not.
Those days are likely over.
When the Board of Trustees of the California State University system meets next on Tuesday, Sept. 11, they face some tough choices. The gap between expenses and revenues across the sprawling 23-campus system is rising past $1.5 billion a year, reports CalMatters’Mikhail Zinshteyn.
Increasing tuition may be the only way out of the system’s cash crisis, so the CSU staff is recommending increase undergraduate and graduate school tuition 6% annually starting in the fall 2024 academic year, Zinshteyn reports.
For undergraduates, the staff said that would mean an increase of $342 in the first year. They claim nearly 60% of Cal State’s students would not be affected by the tuition hikes because they receive state financial aid.
Tuition for those who pay would rise steadily, from $6,084 in the first year of the hike to $7,682 by 2028-29, according to CalMatters.
The series of hikes has no end-date. The best the CSU system would offer under the proposal would be a requirement to reassess the plan after five years. Board members could choose to change the policy or delay the vote.
Senior staff and members of the board had signaled at the May meeting that a series of tuition hikes was imminent, CalMatters reports.
The system has created a public website that spells out the tuition proposal and invites feedback from students and parents. They have one week to send in that feedback.
Zinshteyn reported that an explainer from CSU said “Students who are not eligible for financial aid assistance can pursue a paid internship, part-time employment, student loans or institutional or private scholarships to cover the proposed increase. All students are encouraged to contact the financial aid offices on their campuses to explore their options.”
CalMatters reported that the tuition plan would boost Cal State’s revenues by $148 million in the first year and grow to $840 million by the fifth year of the increases. Cal State intends to divert 33% of that new revenue to campus financial aid for low-income students, known as the State University Grant.
The system argues that tuition is the only major revenue source that it controls to generate more revenue.
Historically, Cal State relied on state funding for much of its operating budget, according to Zinshteyn’s reporting. But that level of support dropped from 80% in the 1990s to 60% in 2022-23.
During budget negotiations in 2023, Cal State sought $514 million from the governor — more than twice the $227 million than Gov. Gavin Newsom promised and eventually agreed to fund in last week’s budget deal with lawmakers.
To make matters worse, a coalition of unions is pressing the system to increase worker pay. If not, strikes are on the table.