Tuition costs could double

Greg Kane

A tuition increase could be on the horizon for California State University students if legislators listen to a report released in mid-February that calls for a student fee increase as early as next year.

In its Feb. 20 analysis of the 2002-03 Budget Bill, the Legislative Analysts Office recommended that the CSU and University of California adjust fees annually in response to growing budget concerns. Two options ? setting fees at either a fixed percentage of the overall cost of education or at the average of comparable institutions ? are explored in the report.

Sac State students currently pay $1,428 per year to attend classes, along with an additional campus fee of $459. The report shows that if students were instead charged 30 percent of the system?s education costs, the system fee would be $3,335.

The report also says the estimated difference between its fees and the average of other public universities is $2,500, more than $1,000 above current CSU tuition.

The report is a non-partisan analysis, meant only to advise the state legislature as it prepares to debate the budget next month. Still, including a section on student fees could kick-start debate of an increase next year, said CSU Spokeswoman Clara Potes-Fellow.

“I don?t think it will be something that will happen this year, but it could happen next year,” Potes-Fellow said.

In his January state budget proposal, Gov. Gray Davis left out a $27.9 million student fee increase buyout for the CSU. Though officials have discussed raising non-resident fees, the LAO report marks the first time the possibility of raising resident tuition has been publicly acknowledged.

The CSU Board of Trustees is not currently discussing a resident fee increase, Potes-Fellow said.

CSU student fees haven?t risen since the early 1990s, when a state recession forced the legislature to cut spending on the system, said LAO Director of Higher Education Steve Boilard.

Setting a predictable fee policy would provide stability so a future recession wouldn?t require another sudden increase, he said.

“We?re trying to make a recommendation to come up with a more rational policy that stabilizes student fees,” Boilard said.

The release of the report allows administrators to publicly acknowledge what they previously may have been discussing behind the scenes, he said.

“I suspect there were certainly people in the CSU that were considering a fee increase,” Boilard said. “(The report) doesn?t change peoples? minds at the CSU, it gives them the political cover.”

Until the state budget is finalized in May, it?s hard to say what will or won?t be on the table regarding funding for next year, said Sacramento State Vice President of Finance John Self.

Though he hasn?t heard any talk of a system-wide fee increase, he said the legislature would likely wait until income and sales tax revenues are known before any increase is discussed.

“If there were to be any discussion along those lines, it would probably happen around April,” Self said.

Sac State President Donald Gerth said neither the Board of Trustees nor the university presidents have met since the report was issued.

He said this week?s meeting with the Trustees will include discussion of the budget, but “whether we?ll be talking about student fees, I have no idea.”

Any student fee increase passed by the state legislature would have to be approved by the Board of Trustees, Potes-Fellow said.

Send comments, questions, or concerns to [email protected]

For questions or information regarding thesite, please contact [email protected]