Cost to attend Cal Poly is rising as CSU board approves tuition hike

Cal Poly students, who already pay $9,075 a year in tuition and fees, will pay $270 more with the CSU hike.
Cal Poly students, who already pay $9,075 a year in tuition and fees, will pay $270 more with the CSU hike. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The California State University governing board on Wednesday approved the first tuition increase in six years for the system’s 23 campuses, including Cal Poly, drawing 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 CSU tuition is $5,472 a year. Cal Poly students pay $9,075 when other local fees are added, double what they paid 10 years ago.

The increase came despite protests from several CSU student organizations, including Cal Poly’s Associated Students Inc.

Jana Colombini, Cal Poly student body president and agricultural sciences senior, said her organization “actually endorsed a resolution against the tuition increase.”

She said that the Cal Poly ASI, as well as the California State Student Association to which it belongs, has waged an extensive outreach effort to to dissuade lawmakers and university administrators from relying on students for necessary revenue.

She said that effort included lobbying area lawmakers and launching a letter-writing campaign, as well as the #ChooseCSU campaign on Twitter.

Chancellor Timothy White had urged 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, adding 3,000 course sections and expanding academic and student support services, CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said.

Although Colombini said she hoped Gov. Jerry Brown might be persuaded to propose more funding for the CSU system, giving the board of trustees a reason to repeal the tuition increase, she said she didn’t hold much hope for that happening.

“I don’t think (the governor and state Legislature) will feel an urge to fund us completely because the money’s going to come from somewhere else,” Colombini said.

Although some students might not feel the burden of an extra $270 a year, the increase would nevertheless have a ripple effect, Colombini said.

“For a lot of students, this could be a deal breaker for them if they attend a four-year university right off the bat or take a different route,” she said. “If you work at a part-time job, that’s a week’s worth of work that you have to put in extra to afford that.”

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 to pay 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 Chico State, told the trustees during a public comment session. “Students like myself cannot afford another tuition increase.”

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

The Associated Press contributed to this report.