CSU board votes to raise tuition amid student protests


California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, speaks against a tuition increase that was approved by the California State University Board of Trustees in Long Beach on March 22. (Screengrab courtesy of the California State University)

John Ferrannini

The first tuition increase in six years was approved by the California State University Board of Trustees after a vote in Long Beach on Wednesday amid student protests inside and outside the meeting.

The vote raises tuition for in-state undergraduates by $270 beginning next academic year, a 5 percent increase over the current charge of $5,472.

Supporters of the increase said during a meeting of the finance committee that it became necessary after a $168 million gap opened up between the CSU’s 2017-18 preliminary budget and the amount being allotted to the system by the state.

“Society as a whole — through our legislature — has chosen to subsidize higher education less,” said Board of Trustees Vice Chair Adam Day. “Revenues and expenses have to meet. At the end of the day, if you can’t adapt to the economic realities you are faced with, you have to close shop.”

Members of the audience interrupted trustees speaking in favor of the increase with chants of “the more we pay, the longer we stay” — a jab at Graduation Initiative 2025, the funding of which was another reason given by supporters of the increase.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, an ex-officio member of the board, said that the idea of raising tuition was “grotesque.”

“To be fully funded two years ago and come back and say students need to pay more tuition is absurd and it’s grotesque,” Rendon said.

The tuition increase passed with an amendment that tuition would return to previous levels if the state closed the funding shortfall.

A crowd of 80 students organized by the activist group Students for a Quality Education protested outside of the meeting.

“We have more students from Long Beach — a bus of 20 is on the way,” said Courtney Yamagiwa of SQE. “We’re chanting outside and the people inside the meeting can hear us. Students do not support the tuition increase. We’re here and we matter.”

Sacramento State student Ryan Brown, the vice president of legislative affairs at the California State Student Association, expressed his disappointment with the board’s decision. Brown and other student government leaders had been lobbying state legislators and the board against the tuition increase.

“We as a student body — nearly 500,000 of us — need to spend every day from now until May telling our legislators that their failure to support students should not become our burden,” Brown said. “For every single trustee that voted in favor of the hike, I fully expect to see them lobbying alongside us in the Capitol. We intend on holding them to their word.”

The trustees took the vote by hand, and not by roll-call, so which members voted which way is not available at this time.

Update: March 24 at 10:59 a.m. — The initial version of this story falsely reported that the gap between the CSU’s 2017-18 preliminary budget and the amount expected to be allotted by the state was $168 billion. In fact, it is $168 million.