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California State University trustees vote to increase tuition

Trustees sit in a circular formation at the Dumke Auditorium.
The Board of Trustees convened Wednesday at the Dumke Auditorium at the Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach.

FRESNO, Calif. – Students will pay more to attend a California State University campus this fall after the school system’s board of trustees voted Wednesday to raise tuition by 6% each year for the next five years.

The controversial increase prompted protests by CSU students at many of the 23 campuses. Students at the Valley’s largest CSU campus, Fresno State, had differing opinions, and many, in fact, were unaware of the change.

“I don't see many members of the campus community that are proactively engaged,” says David Victor, a Fresno State senior and staff reporter for the university’s newsroom, The Collegian.

Victor interviewed students on campus before Wednesday’s vote. One student told him the increase would be worthwhile as long as it benefits students, but also expressed her need to pay for things that “grants don’t cover.”

“Students really have to struggle whether it's two or even three jobs while also being a full-time student,” Victor says.

Diana Aguilar-Cruz argues her motion holding a Maslow Hierarchy of Needs chart.
Diana Aguilar-Cruz handcrafted a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs chart to argue her motion.

CSU tuition for a full-time undergraduate currently stands at $5,742 a year. The 6% hike means students will pay $342 more next fall, and rates will increase a total of more than $2,000 over the next five years.

Victor says the tuition hike could be harsh on disadvantaged communities, especially as inflation has increased the costs of living. More than half of students at CSU campuses are from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and nearly half qualify for the Pell Grant, which is based on financial need.

During the trustees’ meeting in Long Beach, board member Diana Aguilar-Cruz asked the board to consider the impact on students.

“How do we help students who don’t have money for gas and housing? And I could go on and on,” says Aguilar-Cruz, who was a first-generation student at Cal Poly Pomona.

During deliberations, Aguilar-Cruz unsuccessfully proposed that the annual increases be limited to four years rather than five. Other members also filed motions to postpone the vote several months or to decrease the five years to three, all of which failed to pass.

After five years, the board will reconvene to reevaluate the tuition rate.

Officials of the CSU, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, say the increase will advance accessibility and equity for all students, increase financial aid for students in need and provide tuition predictability.

Rachel Livinal reports on higher education for KVPR through a partnership with the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative.