Cal Poly student fees could rise again by next fall

Cal Poly students could face a 10 percent fee increase in the next academic year after a 30 percent fee increase this year — though some local students say they don’t mind if the extra charges help their education.

The possibility of a fee jump was stated in a preliminary plan presented as a nonaction item at the California State University Board of Trustees meeting in September.

All full-time, CSU undergraduate students pay a fee of $4,026 per academic year, which doesn’t include additional fees assessed at individual campuses of varying amounts.

At Cal Poly, the charges total $6,198 for most students when other mandatory fees are added, according to a schedule on the university’s Web site.

Those fees — which are also charged at other CSU campuses — help fund specific schools at Cal Poly, as well as Associated Students Inc., the University Union, student activities and health services. Liberal arts and undeclared majors pay slightly less.

Adding 10 percent to the CSU fee and the first step of a gradual student-approved fee increase could boost that by $1,127 next fall, to $7,325 for the academic year for most undergraduates.

Under the tentative proposal that comes early in a nearly yearlong process of budget plans and approvals, the CSU is asking for an $882 million boost in the subsidy from the state general fund above the current funding of $2.3 billion.

As part of the draft proposal, which is similar to earlier budget requests, the CSU would ask the state to cover $94 million. If that’s denied, the gap would have to be covered by a 10 percent student fee increase — of which one-third would go toward financial aid.

The state faces a projected $7 billion budget shortfall — meaning revenue is not expected to cover current spending levels — to start the 2010-11 year, according to the plan presented by the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Finance.

“A lot of us don’t want our fees to be increased, but as of now, it appears there aren’t other avenues to get funding,” said Kelly Griggs, president of Cal Poly’s Associated Students, Inc.

Griggs noted that students overwhelmingly supported a Cal Poly-specific fee proposal last year that would have raised fees by $562 per quarter on a gradual scale by 2011. Had that fee increase not been put on hold, students would have been charged an additional $362 for the fall quarter.

But the Cal Poly-based fee, which was voted on before this year’s 30 percent CSU-wide fee hike, has been put on hold pending discussions between university officials and CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

The CSU board is scheduled to consider adopting its preliminary plan at a November meeting before submitting it to the state, officials said.

Cal Poly student Stephanie Reveles, a junior civil engineering major, said that an additional 10 percent fee increase would make it difficult for her. She said she already works two part-time jobs and takes out a loan.

“It’s not that I want to see the fees stay the same next year, I’d like to see them decrease,” Reveles said.

But freshman electrical engineering major Bradley Hutchinson said that he’s OK with fee increases because CSU fees are lower than other schools, including University of California campuses.

“Our major requires a lot of lab equipment, and we want to make sure we have the best possible education,” Hutchinson said. Larry Kelley, the university’s vice president of administration and finance, said Cal Poly graduates tend to be what he described as high-income earners, citing a Forbes magazine study that showed Cal Poly graduates earning a median annual salary of $57,200 within five years of graduation.

“The return on investment, even on the increased fees, proves to be a great decision by our graduates,” Kelley said.