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Cal State approves 20% fee hike

Hundreds of students protest the move, which comes on the heels of a 10% increase in May. And the chancellor warns of mass layoffs if the faculty rejects a two-day-a-month furlough plan.

July 22, 2009|Gale Holland

As several hundred students shouted "Vote no!" outside the chamber door, California State University trustees Tuesday approved a student fee hike of 20% and agreed to furlough most faculty and staff, including college presidents, for two days each month.

The fee increase, a response to what board Chairman Jeffrey Bleich described as a fiscal "tsunami" powered by the state's dire budget cuts, will bring average annual statewide charges for Cal State undergraduates to $4,026 a year, not including room, board, books and separate fees charged by each campus.

Chancellor Charles Reed warned of mass layoffs if Cal State faculty members, who are voting on the furlough plan, refuse to go along. Spokeswoman Claudia Keith also said that if the proposal was rejected, thousands of part-time instructors would be let go, and 22,000 courses, or 15%, could be canceled.

Cal State also plans to cut its 450,000 enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years, and $183 million more in budget cuts will be borne by individual campuses.

The 23-campus university system, the nation's largest, has almost tripled its basic fees over the last eight years, approving increases in every year but one. But Tuesday's was by far the steepest, and followed a 10% hike approved just in May.

At its meeting last week, the governing board of the University of California approved furloughs for faculty and staff because of state funding cuts but did not consider another student fee increase. President Mark G. Yudof warned, however, that UC students should brace for a fee hike in the winter, on top of the 9.3% increase approved in May for the fall term.

On Tuesday, in what has become a ritual, Cal State students, including several veterans of previous fee increase fights, denounced the board, saying it had slammed the door on opportunity for minority students, including many who are the first in their families to attend college.

Some speakers offered to join with the trustees to fight further cuts, but others bitterly denounced what they described as the board's failure to wring a reprieve from budget slashers in Sacramento.

"I'm feeling angry . . . .with your mediocre leadership and cowardice in not speaking up for the students," Cal State L.A. student Gabriela Serrato told the board. "Give us the money and we'll fight with the government ourselves."

Bleich responded that the blame lay with the dysfunctional budget process in Sacramento. "If you look at the budget . . . it's $16 billion in cuts and $9 billion in gimmicks," he said of the new state budget proposal.

But Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Assn., said the trustees were "downsizing" the university and did not have the political will to prevent state funding cuts.

Some also said the cuts will mean even larger class sizes, fewer course sections and longer delays in graduation time.

"Our classes are overcrowded, our teachers are exhausted -- I'm exhausted, I work three jobs in order to go to school," Sonoma State student Kia Kolderup-Lane told the board.

After the meeting, the trustees filed out of their chambers in the system's Long Beach headquarters behind a police line blocking hundreds of students. Some of the protesters clutched young children, while others banged on trash cans, blew whistles and shouted "Shame on you!"

Nearby, San Francisco State senior Honora Keller wept quietly.

"I was also here in May and presented them with alternatives, but they refused to look at it," said Keller, 21, who is studying public health.

"But it's the same exact story every time. Put it on the students."

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gale.holland@latimes.com

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