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Cal State fee hikes: So more students will take a hike?

November 09, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • A Cal State student gets a record of the courses for which she's enrolled.
A Cal State student gets a record of the courses for which she's enrolled. (Los Angeles Times )

What? The voters agreed to tax themselves via Proposition 30 and California State University wants to raise fees anyway?

Let's calm down for a moment. For one thing, Proposition 30 benefits Cal State (and the University of California) in less bountiful ways than K-12 schools and community colleges, which get actual infusions of new money. The initiative does prevent trigger cuts that would have cost each of the four-year higher-ed institutions $250 million.

Possibly a little more money will flow to the schools because of the amounts that go into the general fund, but this will be small potatoes compared with the cuts the schools have suffered. In other words, they're in pain, and though the state isn't giving them ibuprofen, at least it isn't sticking them in the side with a knife.

But the bigger issue is that these fees, though they would certainly raise some money, are more about changing student behavior. Students linger around the Cal State system for years past the time when they should be gone. They take endless courses, or retake the same recreation courses over and over. It's a waste of resources that should go to other students who need a college education.

The proposed fee increases are similar to what the community college system is doing, by giving lowest priority for course registration to students who have taken far more credits than they need to graduate. They've worn out their welcome, and it's time to go.

We can argue over whether Cal State is trying to set the bar too high; after all, students shouldn't be penalized for taking extra courses they might need for a double major or to fill out a well-rounded schedule. I'm also concerned about the plan to charge students for taking an extra-heavy load of courses, because often they drop one or more of those. If anything, they should be charged when they drop the course. If they can handle all the classes and thus graduate earlier, more power to them.

Of course, we all have a fantasy about going back to the days when California offered virtually limitless, affordable college education. Proposition 30 doesn't get us nearly there. The state has to use its resources wisely, and, at least in theory, these look more like smart fees that promote more efficient use of funding.

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