SAN FRANCISCO — California State University’s governing board Wednesday approved the first tuition increase in six years for the system’s 23 campuses, drawing chants of opposition from students who said they’re already struggling to afford the cost of education.
The board of trustees voted 11-8, approving a proposal that will increase undergraduate tuition by $270 for the 2017-18 school year.
Current tuition is $5,472 a year.
Chancellor Timothy White had urged the trustees to approve the increase, saying the nation’s largest public university system needs to hire more faculty and add more classes to accommodate growing enrollment and insufficient state funding.
“I don’t bring this forward with an ounce of joy, I bring it out of necessity,” White told the board, which held its meeting at his office in Long Beach.
The increase will generate $77.5 million in net revenue and go toward hiring 400 new faculty, add 3,000 course sections and expand academic and student support services, said CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle.
Several students spoke emotionally against the increase before the vote, saying that $270 might not seem like much but it was significant to students struggling as they worked to support themselves and paid additional costs for housing, food and books.
“Many of my peers have to work two or three jobs to get by,” Alejandro Alfaro, a student at CSU Chico told the trustees, during a public comment session. “Students like myself cannot afford another tuition increase.”
The university system says nearly 63 percent of undergraduate students have their tuition fully covered by financial aid and would not be affected by the increase.
Wednesday’s vote comes before CSU receives its final budget from the state in July. The provisional budget indicates CSU will receive $157.2 million in additional revenue, but that would still leave a shortfall of $168 million, CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said.
Several trustees opposed the increase, urging the board to maintain pressure on the state legislature to increase funding rather than placing the burden on students.
“It’s a public university and we have to say enough is enough,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is also a trustee and voted against the increase. “We’re letting the legislature off the hook.”
As trustees spoke out in favor of the increase, students repeatedly interrupted with chants of: “The more we pay, the longer we stay!”
Trustee Peter Taylor said the decrease in state funding over the years has caused the quality of the Cal State system to slip and its facilities to become embarrassingly run down.
“We are in the position now of having to make this painful choice,” said Taylor, who voted to approve the increase. “We’re here because the state has consistently, persistently underfunded this institution.”