Hikes hit students hard

With annual fees up by $1,000 at Chico State, some are looking elsewhere for school

Nathan Welshons may be the only one of the Welshons siblings who will not graduate from Chico State. Although he attended the college the past two years, continuation is becoming less appealing. Student fees have increased by 32 percent since May 2009, and disgruntled students are starting to look at other options.

This spike in fees results directly from the economic downturn and the almost $600 million cut in funding for the California State University system, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed explained in a recent system-wide memo. The CSU Board of Trustees approved a fee increase on July 21, requiring undergraduate students who enroll in more than six units this fall to pay $4,026 a year, an increase of about $1,000 over the previous year.

If fees continue to rise in the coming semesters, some students are thinking about something as drastic as straying away from Chico State. Welshons is now considering transferring to University of Washington, Seattle—a school he claims is more prestigious and costs only a little more in tuition.

The thought is attractive because Welshons is currently paying for college through student loans and by working full time at the local Best Buy. Due to the increase in fees, he has had to take out another student loan in order to cover the costs.

Welshons explains that he would understand the increase in fees if students were getting better services, such as more experienced professors. However, with just the opposite happening, he will continue to look elsewhere for schooling if the fees rise again.

“By increasing tuition, decreasing classes offered, increasing class size … it is harming more than helping,” Welshons said. “The few students who can come and afford the costs are not enough to supplement the school.”

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY<br> Chico State junior Nathan Welshons is looking at other schools after the CSU raised student fees this summer.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Because all of Welshons’ loans and paychecks go directly to covering the costs of college, his leftover funds are slim. He finds himself skimping on even the most necessary items, including food. Going out for fun and actually enjoying his college experience is going to be increasingly rare.

“It really is all up to me and my determination to get as little sleep as possible, while working as much as possible,” he said.

Although lack of sleep will wind up being a major issue for him, Welshons is set on taking 18 units a semester in order to graduate faster and save himself money. Even so, he has a back-up plan in case money becomes harder to come by.

“If I run out, I will have to try to work harder and cut back to eating what any poor person in their 20s eats—ramen or Cup O’noodles,” Welshons said. “I will have to sell some things and try to make the money that way so I can stay afloat.”

Although the Board of Trustees and the chancellor understand the severity of the matter and sympathize with the students, Reed’s e-mail states that the CSU’s plan is in place to balance the need to reduce spending with the need to preserve the quality of the academic program and access to courses and student services.

It mentions that the students are not the only ones absorbing the consequences. Nearly every employee, including campus presidents and Reed himself, will face a 10 percent pay reduction.

At least students have an option when it comes to making up the difference. About one-third of the money obtained via the fee hikes will go to financial aid, and students who have been analyzed through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process and qualify will get help with fees. Loans are also available.

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Although Joseph Igbinweka, the Associated Students president, does not agree with the increase in fees and had no say in the matter, he guarantees that the A.S. will continue to involve students in any discussion regarding university changes that are spawned by the budget cuts.

“This is just another example of how the state is ducking its responsibility and commitment to public education and students,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough year that will require much collaboration and dedication among all university stakeholders.”