‘A sobering conclusion.’ CSU recommends tuition increase because of funding shortfall

·2 min read
Sara Nevis/snevis@sacbee.com

The California State University Board of Trustees has come to a grim realization: There just isn’t enough money to go around and it’s time to raise tuition.

For eight months, a workgroup convened by Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester conducted an examination of the university system’s revenue and expenditures, and determined that the latter outpaces the former. That report was presented to the full board earlier this week.

In short, the CSU system’s revenue only covers 86% of costs; the 14% that revenue does not cover includes instruction, institutional support, academic support, student services and other expenses.

“The workgroup reached a sobering conclusion: long-term sustainability requires adequate revenues for CSU to fulfill its functions. To thrive, the workgroup concludes the CSU must regularly conduct systematic and comprehensive assessments to ensure that the CSU can provide a quality, affordable, and accessible education to Californians in the 21st century,” according to a summary of the report.

That 14% shortfall doesn’t include an estimated $7.5 billion in backlogged critical capital renewal projects, which will take a decade to complete, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The backlog remains a critical issue, the report said, that will get worse as capital renewal funds are spent doing emergency deferred maintenance repairs.

“Leaky roofs, obsolete heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and 50-year-old buildings in need of repair seriously impede universities’ ability to provide an appropriate educational environment,” the report said.

All this led the workgroup to one conclusion: “After appropriate consultation with student representatives, the board should adopt by September 2023 a tuition policy that provides guidance for gradual, moderate, and predictable increases for students effective the fall of 2024.”

To mitigate the difficulty that raising tuition would place on struggling students, the workgroup recommended increasing tuition 5% beginning in the 2024-25 academic year for all new and continuing students. Their tuition would then remain flat until they graduate.

The following year, the tuition would increase 5% for the incoming class, and then remain flat for them until they graduate.

“This pattern would continue; tuition would increase by five percent for every subsequent cohort and then would remain flat until they graduate,” the report said.

Any raise in tuition is likely to meet stiff pushback from student groups, something the report author’s seemed to acknowledge.

“The workgroup recognized that any changes in tuition rates will impact students and emphasized the need to adhere to the stated principle – that any scenario be gradual, moderate and, importantly, predictable,” the report said.