The passage of Proposition 30 in California last Tuesday saved the state’s three public higher education systems from devastation, providing funding to forestall huge tuition increases and enrollment cuts. Young voters made the difference in that vote, amounting to nearly a third of the electorate and supporting Prop 30 by a two-to-one margin.
But the struggle over college accessibility in California is far from over, as new proposed fees at Cal State demonstrate.
On Thursday, Cal State administrators unveiled three new fees for CSU students, intended — in the LA Times‘s gloss — “not primarily to generate revenue but to change student behaviors.” But those “student behaviors,” as the Times goes on to make clear, are only even arguably problematic because the system is so badly underfunded.
Here’s what’s up:
First, Cal State wants to charge a $372 per unit (“credit,” for non Californians) to super-seniors who have already taken more than 150-160 units worth of classes. This fee would raise tuition for super-seniors by more than $10,000 a year, bumping in-state students up to the same tuition rate as out-of-staters.
Second, they’re looking to impose a $91 per-unit fee on students who repeat classes, which they estimate is happening at a rate of about 40,000 times a semester, system wide.
And finally, they’re proposing a $182 per-unit fee on courseloads above 18 units. (This would amount to a $3640 surcharge on a 20-unit semester.)
Cal State claims that the practices they’re targeting are clogging up the system — because students are lingering beyond graduation eligibility, retaking favored classes, and overloading their schedules so they can drop courses later, they say, some 18,000 applicants a year are being turned away.
But thanks to budget cuts, students are regularly shut out of courses they need for their majors, and forced to fill up their schedules with electives to maintain financial aid eligibility. Cal State already bans students who have received a grade of C or better in a course from taking it again. And of course many students who sign up for heavy courseloads are doing it not so they can drop classes later, but so they can finish more quickly — in most cases, at least in part, as a way of saving tuition money.
And even if this weren’t the case, the student who changes majors in their senior year, the student who retakes a course to master the material, the student who adds an extra class to have a safety valve if one doesn’t pan out — these students should not be punished. All these “behaviors” are a legitimate, healthy, even commendable part of the college experience.
As the Sacramento Bee editorialized yesterday, this is outrageous. The Cal State trustees have the opportunity to reject these fees when they meet tomorrow.
Tuesday Update | Well, the trustees didn’t reject the fee proposals, but they’re not adopting them either — at least not yet. According to a statement from the CSU chancellor, the proposals have been removed from the agenda of today’s meeting and will “be reviewed at a later date after Trustees gather additional information and input from stakeholders.”