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State universities discuss fee hikes

Cal State proposes a 5% increase for the rest of this school year and a 10% increase for next school year, while UC regents are likely to vote on higher fees next month.

October 30, 2010|By Carla Rivera and Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times

California's two public university systems are expected to seek student fee increases next month to help pay for rising costs inside and outside the classroom that a recent boost in state funding didn't fully cover, officials said.

California State University on Friday proposed a two-step increase that would raise undergraduate fees 5% — or $105 — for the rest of this school year and an additional 10% — or about $440 — for next year. If the plan is approved by the Board of Trustees in early November, basic full-time undergraduate tuition next year would rise to $4,884, plus campus fees that average about $1,000.

University of California administrators said they will not ask for a midyear increase; rather they are discussing how large one should be for the next academic year. Several higher education experts said it was likely that UC would propose a fall fee increase for undergraduates of 7% to 10%, or about $700 to $1,000. UC regents are expected to vote on an increase in mid-November.

The proposals come on top of stiff fee increases in the last two years at both systems and, if realized, will make it even more difficult for some to afford college, many students and parents said.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Alexandra Louderback doesn't receive financial aid and is shouldering the full costs of tuition herself, working 20 hours a week at a campus job while carrying a full class load. She'll be forced to take out another student loan to pay for a fee increase, she said.

"It's nerve-racking to even think about it," said Louderback, 21, a senior. "If I try to take fewer units to work more to offset the increase, I wouldn't graduate on time.... People will look at the increase and say it's not much, but when you add it up and consider the tradeoffs, it's very tough."

Miguel De La Cruz, a carpenter and painter, has provided tuition support for his son who attends Cal State Northridge. Michael, 25, decided to forgo fall classes when he could obtain only one of the courses he needed, but he wants to register again in the spring.

"It was already hard to pay for classes, and it's only going to get worse," said De La Cruz, a North Hollywood resident. "If I have to, I'll find a way, but in this economy it's going to be hard. It's a concern that we as parents have no voice."

The 23-campus Cal State system and the 10-campus UC system received a boost in state funding in the recent state budget, with UC gaining about $265 million and Cal State $260 million from the previous year. They also got about $106 million each in one-time federal stimulus money.

But officials said those gains failed to make up for severe cuts from previous years that have left them in a deep hole and forced drastic reductions in course offerings, in student services and in the numbers of part-time faculty.

The schools also face increased costs for health and pension benefits, energy bills and other expenses.

At Cal State, the proposed fee increases would raise an additional $27 million in revenue this year and $121.5 million next year, which would be used to add class sections and restore many services such as library and counseling hours, said Robert Turnage, the assistant vice chancellor for budget. Trustees already increased fees 5% this fall.

Cal State's proposed budget for 2011-12 asks the Legislature to "buy out" next year's fee increase. But that's uncertain, Turnage said, given the state's precarious financial situation.

Some UC fee increase is likely. "I don't see how we would avoid it," said Patrick J. Lenz, UC's vice president for budget. He added that officials are also discussing ways to extend more financial aid programs to the middle class.

Steve Boilard, higher education director at the state Legislative Analyst's Office, predicted that UC President Mark G. Yudof would seek an 8% to 10% fee increase that is likely to be controversial.

Among UC regents, he said, "there is a real tension between those who feel more revenue is needed to maintain the quality of the university and those who feel affordability is paramount."

UC raised fees 32% for the 2010-11 academic year, sparking system-wide protests, and students are likely to be just as upset by an additional increase, said Claudia Magana, president of the UC Student Assn.

UC undergraduates now pay about $11,000 a year in fees and campus-based costs; room and board can add $16,000. Graduate and professional students pay more.

Veronica Smith, a third-year UC Santa Barbara student, said she has so far avoided taking out loans. But Smith, a history of public policy major who receives some scholarship aid, said she fears that her family will not be able to cover any fee increase and that her summer job as a grocery store cashier won't be able to make up the difference.

"Of course it's going to be hard for them," she said of her family. "Nothing is more important to them than me getting my education."

carla.rivera@latimes.com

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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