Home>Articles>California State University Trustees Vote To Raise Tuition By 34% Over Next 5 Years

CSU Sacramento sign. (Photo: CSUS public domain)

California State University Trustees Vote To Raise Tuition By 34% Over Next 5 Years

CSU trustee compares revenue shortfalls to ‘climate change’

By Evan Symon, September 14, 2023 12:35 pm

The California State University Board of Trustees voted on Wednesday to drastically increase tuition annually by 6% for the next five years, or 34% in total, to help combat the current $1.5 billion deficit that the university system is facing.

For the past several years, the CSU system has been growing further and further into debt. The system has threatened to increase tuition several times, such as in 2020 when a bill that would give two free years of CSU classes to those that get an Associate’s degree from a California community college was introduced and CSU threatened early action to combat the possible massive loss. At the same time, students have complained that tuition at CSU schools is already too expensive, with a poll last year finding that only 37% of students at CSU schools found tuition affordable.

But the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and the fact that CSU has not increased tuition for over a decade have all taken a major toll on the system. In 2023, CSU was found to have a massive $1.5 billion budget gap. A May report by Cal State University also found that the system only has enough revenue to cover only 86% of what they need to cover the needs for students, staff, and campuses. Facing an even worse situation next year if nothing was done soon, the CSU Board of Trustees voted on Wednesday to increase tuition over the next five years.

Currently, in-state undergraduate students pay $5,742 a year for tuition. Under the new plan approved on Wednesday, tuition is to go up by 6% over the next five academic years. In 2024-2025, this means that tuition will go up to $6,084. This will be followed by a jump up to $6,450 in 2025-2026, $6,840 in 2026-27, $7,248 in 2027-28, and finally coming to $7,682 in 2028-2029. In total, this will account for a 34% total increase. According to CSU, the increase in tuition in 2024-2025 alone will help improve revenue by $148 million and would begin to reduce the overall budget gap.

Prior to the vote, a motion to reduce the number of 6% tuition year hikes from 5 to 4 was put forward. However, a majority of trustees voted it down, as reducing the number of annual hikes to 4 years would mean a loss of $126 million in revenue.

CSU trustees defended their decision on Wednesday, noting that it was not an easy decision to raise tuition during such trying times for students.

“We are at a crossroads and if we don’t do it now it’s going to get more and more difficult,” CSU trustee Julia Lopez. “This is a lot like climate change. If we don’t heed the warning signs right now, we’re going to find ourselves in a world of hurt down the line. So that’s what we’re trying to do, to get ahead of that.”

Another trustee, Jean Picker Firstenberg, added that “We cannot survive unless we take action. No one wants to do this but it is our responsibility.”

However, CSU students and faculty heavily opposed the hikes, noting that most students attending CSU campuses are already struggling to pay their way through college. Others warned that the hikes would likely lead to many students dropping out, and for those that do stay, them taking on even more of a burden by getting extra jobs and taking on extra loans to make ends meet.

A 34% rise in tuition over the next 5 years

“This misguided and ill-informed idea will price out current and potential students – especially those who identify as Black, brown, immigrant, low-income, and/or first-generation college students,” the California Faculty Association said in a statement Thursday.

California Lt. Gov. Eleni T. Kounalakis. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Lt. Governor and CSU trustee Eleni Kounalakis, one of the few trustees to oppose the hikes on Wednesday, also said that that the vote should have been postponed until October when a new Chancellor is due to take over.

“The trustees headed into an action that you do not fully understand the consequences of,” said Kounalakis. “Even if 60% of undergraduates don’t pay tuition, 184,000 students do. I don’t see how we can do this without knowing what a $2,000 a year increase is going to mean for our students. We know anecdotally that a lot of students are going to drop out.”

A CSU student leader, Amanda, added, “This is going to screw many of us over. A few thousand a year may not seem like much, but we are facing a lot of other costs. Housing, food, gas, utility bills, car costs, etc. And all those are rising too. This decision by CSU is not good. It means that more students, the majority of whom are minorities, are going to drop out. It means that seeing students sleeping in their cars because they can’t afford an apartment will become more commonplace. It means we’ll need to take second and third and fourth jobs. All for wanting to have a better life.”

Higher education experts told the Globe that the raises in tuition were not wanted by most trustees, as well as the vast majority of students, but were passed because of few other options.

“For CSU, the decision was simple,” said former college professor Pete Horvath, who now assists in researching the climb in cost of public education. “It was either raise tuition, drastically cut student services, or run even deeper into the red. There’s not much really left to cut at CSU… Some students services, but that would lead to an even worse experience. You could also try cutting some courses, but that also means a lowered revenue stream. Raising tuition was the most logical choice, especially since it hasn’t gone up in so long.”

“This is something that no one wanted there. But it was the only real option left for them. Costs have gone up everywhere else and they’re running more and more into the red. It was only a matter of time really. And you are right. $1.5 billion is a massive debt, and a 34% rise is big too. It really is a lot.”

Tuition is expected to increase starting in the 2024-2025 academic year.

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8 thoughts on “California State University Trustees Vote To Raise Tuition By 34% Over Next 5 Years

  1. So about 60% of undergraduates don’t pay tuition? Maybe all students should be paying at least something for their educations and they’d be less likely to be seek degrees with little market value? How about trimming bloated administrative departments and positions that the CSU system is rife with?

    1. Amen. I worked in the CSU system for over 30 years and today it looks nothing like it did when I started. The administrative departments have become extremely top heavy – adding large departments and management staff in, for example, the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Lastly, priorities are no longer in giving students a good education. It’s all about indoctrination.

  2. Simple solution students : Try voting REPUBLICAN for once, and make sure you vote for someone versed in Economics and Accounting and understands budgeting implications…
    Don’t buy the BS line that the Democraps push out via their media partners…
    And ask a-hole failures like Julie Su where all the MONEY WENT under her “leadership”….
    WAKE UP and get PISSED at the current majority party that IS screwing you over, and has been for over 25 years…

    1. Here’s more coverage of the destruction that is being brought upon EVERYONE by “Bidenomics” and Democrat MISmanagement everywhere!!!

  3. It’s tough to fill a tub unless you put a stopper in the drain, no matter how high the water is turned up. I actually understand the need to bump up tuition reasonably. Equally important, though, is to go through zero-base budgeting drills to cut the waste, stupidity, outdated, and inefficient. Can the CSUs collectively do this?

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