On the rise again

CSU students face two tuition hikes in the coming year

Chico State senior Ashley Kelley is among the thousands of CSU students facing increasingly higher tuition costs.

Chico State senior Ashley Kelley is among the thousands of CSU students facing increasingly higher tuition costs.

Photo by tyler harbaugh

With tuition costs on the rise, Chico State students like Ashley Kelley are becoming the face of higher education in the wake of California’s financial crisis.

Kelley is a senior biology major who is struggling to keep up with tuition increases and worried that her graduation status may be affected by the most recent hike. She has considered taking a semester off, but her parents advised her to stay put and get out of school as soon as possible.

“I’m probably going to have to take out more loans from the bank, which is not ideal,” said Kelley, who was visibly anxious during a recent interview. “I’ll definitely have to cut back on leisure things. … The money is just such a weight on me. I’m just trying to get out of here.”

Earlier this month, the California State University’s Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition for all 23 campuses by 15 percent next year. The first increase of 5 percent (an additional $211 for the semester) will be implemented this spring, followed by a 10 percent increase ($444) in the fall.

That will bring a full year’s undergraduate tuition to $4,884. That’s not including the mandatory campus-based fees for things like student identification cards and student-union fees, which bring the total cost per Chico State pupil to $6,264.

With thousands of dollars’ worth of loans through her bank, as well as through the federal government, Kelley barely gets by with her part-time job at Collier Hardware in downtown Chico. When she was $80 short of making her tuition last spring, she couldn’t register for classes until she was able to pay out of pocket.

Joey Kellison, a senior business major at Chico State, is taking another tack to finish his education.

His only option after falling behind in classes due to a car accident was to become an “open university” student this semester. This option allows people to take Chico State classes on a space-available basis, without requiring formal admission to the university. By doing so, Kellison pays a per-unit fee for four classes, but receives none of the services such as the Student Health Center or access to the new Wildcat Recreation Center. At the same time, he’s taking two additional classes at less-expensive Butte College.

Kellison is also unsure about his academic future due to the increasing cost of classes at Chico State. He can afford only so many units there, and Butte College doesn’t offer the upper-division courses he needs to graduate.

Chico State President Paul Zingg pointed out that the situation isn’t as devastating as it seems for some students.

“More than half of the CSU’s students (nearly 200,000) will not pay any additional fees this year or next because of increased financial aid funding (both state and federal),” Zingg said in an e-mail. He added that, by trustee policy, one-third of all student fee revenue is set aside for financial-aid purposes in order to alleviate the effects of fee increases on those who would suffer the most, such as a dependent undergraduate student with a family income under $70,000.

Kelley, who doesn’t qualify for financial aid but is financially independent, will have to up the amount of funding she relies on through loans, putting her further into debt upon graduation.

Zingg noted that the CSU’s 2011-12 budget includes a request that the state provide sufficient funding that would “buy out” the increases by providing additional funding to compensate for the revenue. If approved by the Legislature, this would allow the system to roll back the tuition hikes.

Such buyouts have occurred in the past, Zingg said. He added that they have taken place during better financial times, so the odds of its happening in this case are remote.

Joe Wills, director of Chico State’s Public Affairs and Publications, encourages students to contact the university to explore all options when it comes to continuing their education. He pointed out that Chico State has received a record number of applications for fall.

“It’s expensive to educate students, and the state support simply doesn’t cover it adequately,” he said.