Kennedy Memorial Library at Cal State LA.

By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist

Originally published Sep 12, 2023

Each year for the next five years, tuition at California State University schools will go up by 6%.

On Wednesday, CSU trustees voted 15-5 to approve the tuition increase, which will start in fall 2024.

Trustees said they weighed the effect of the hike on students having trouble making ends meet against the university’s projected $1.5 billion dollar funding shortfall.

“Please know that all of us who are here take this incredibly seriously, and the fact is if we don’t do this, there is no alternative path that we can pursue,” said trustee Jose Antonio Vargas.

Why now

CSU administrators say the university is short of the money it needs to keep operating. The $840 million raised over five years would help close that gap. Trustees modified this proposal from an earlier July draft so that now the increases would sunset after five years if not re-approved.

“We have the fiduciary responsibility to save this institution, that has never been put on the table in the six-and-a-half years that I have been on this board,” said trustee Jean Picker Firstenberg.

The tuition increase comes as the massive university system sees enrollment drops affected by the lingering impact of the pandemic and dropping birth rates. Several times during the meeting trustees expressed frustration that previous trustees had “kicked the can” down the road of fully funding the university.

What students say

The Cal State Student Association opposes the increase. The group says rising rent, food, and gas prices are already an increase to college costs and the tuition policy would put a college education out of reach for some students.

The day before the vote, students staged loud protests outside the trustee meeting in Long Beach, while many spoke inside the chambers during public comment in opposition to the tuition increase.

That led a handful of trustees to endorse amendments to shorten the length of time of the increase.

“[The increase] will benefit students in the long term in the years to come, but right now it will harm our students,” said student trustee Diana Aguilar-Cruz. Cruz proposed two amendments, both unsuccessful, to shorten the duration of the increase to three and then to four years, respectively.

Chancellor Jolene Koester spoke against the truncation, saying campus presidents need to know the funds are coming for five years in order to plan improvements.

How this increase compares to years past

This proposed increase would raise tuition $342 for the 2024-2025 academic year. In the early 1990s, amid a state recession, CSU raised tuition by 40%. In the years after the 2008 recession, CSU students endured roughly 30% tuition increases in two separate years.

Since the 1980s CSU tuition increases have been peaks and valleys. (Courtesy of California State University)

Where the money goes

Under terms of the proposal, CSU will set aside one third of the money that would be raised by this tuition increase for additional aid.

CSU administrators say that a majority of students won’t notice a change:

  • 60% of students don’t pay tuition, thanks to a combination of CSU grants, the state Cal Grants program, federal Pell Grants, and other waivers and scholarships.
  • 18% of students receive some financial aid, and would see some form of increase.
  • 4% of students don’t qualify for financial aid, but do take out loans.
  • The remaining 18% of students don’t apply for financial aid, though the university estimates some of them would receive aid if they did apply.

The rest of the money will go primarily to various strategic initiatives, faculty salaries, construction projects, and student services.

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2023 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved

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