Cal Poly is considering a new fee to help pay for faculty, course sections and lab opportunities to help more students graduate on time, President Jeffrey Armstrong told The Tribune on Thursday.
The fee — which would start at $160 per quarter next fall, rise to $210 per quarter in fall 2013 and $260 per quarter in fall 2014 — would help to fill budget gaps as state funding has dropped to 41 percent of Cal Poly’s operating budget, he said.
If Cal Poly decides early next year to seek California State University Chancellor Charles Reed’s approval of the fee, it would be separate from tuition fee hikes set for all CSU schools. That board voted Wednesday to increase tuition by 9 percent at a meeting marked by a raucous protest and four arrests.
Annual tuition costs for undergraduates at Cal Poly have jumped from $5,043 in 2008-09 to $7,986 in 2011-12.
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The days of a free education that originated with the CSU system are gone because of the state’s inability to provide adequate funding to sustain a minimal cost model, Armstrong said.
And Cal Poly’s operational expenses are more than other CSUs because of its polytechnic program, he said.
“We don’t relish the idea of putting more onto the students and parents,” Armstrong said, “but the alternative is grim.”
Student fees and tuition now pay for about 59 percent of operating expenses at Cal Poly, according to university officials.
Armstrong, who assumed the president’s job in February, said private donations, while important, make up “a small sliver” of the overall operating expense.
As part of the argument for increasing fees at Cal Poly, Larry Kelley, vice president of administration and finance, noted that the local university still is more than $1,000 per year cheaper on average than comparable universities nationwide and about half the cost of UC Davis, which also offers programs in agriculture and engineering that are among Cal Poly’s strengths.
In the 2009-10 school year, 78 percent of student voters approved increasing academic fees by up to $562 per quarter. But Reed decided against the hike, saying he didn’t want to limit access to education for financially strapped students in a year that also saw a large CSU fee increase.
According to Cal Poly, about 25 percent of its graduates in 2009-10 had debt from student loans.Besides discussing the student fee under consideration by administrators, students and others on campus, Armstrong addressed other issues. Among them:
He would like to require on-campus housing for freshmen and sophomores, noting that it has been linked to better academic success. About 41 percent of students live on campus. This would mean building more dorms, though no specific development projects are under way.
New contracts negotiated with athletic coaches will aim to give the university greater discretion to terminate the contracts in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment involving former women’s volleyball coach Jon Stevenson. Stevenson left the university Sept. 1 with a separation agreement that paid him $133,000 and 440 hours of vacation.
International students, who make up less than 1 percent of the student population, could play a greater role at Cal Poly in the future. But questions about cultural differences and providing housing and other services during breaks remain. A pilot program for international students will be held in the summer.
Increasing diversity, including students of color and various backgrounds and experiences, is important to Cal Poly’s future, Armstrong said, noting that the university needs to bring “more of the world to Cal Poly and more of Cal Poly to the world.”
Armstrong has vowed to increase the number of out-of-state students who also pay higher tuition costs and help close budget gaps. This won’t affect the number of in-state students who would be accepted, according to Cal Poly officials.