New bill requires Cal State University trustees to discuss tuition hikes with students

Come Jan. 1, California State University trustees are required to consult with and justify tuition fee hikes to students.

Assembly Bill 970, by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, requires CSU and University of California trustees to consult with their respective statewide school associations at least 30 days before a tuition raise. In addition to consultation, tuition hikes are now required to have a 90-day period from when they are instated to when they become effective, instead of a fee immediately being posted.

Trustees must give justifications that include why there is a fee increase, the purpose of the money, how students in financial need can be helped, and possible ways of avoiding the fee increase through alternative proposals.

Student representatives from all 23 CSUs are required to meet with CSU trustees before a scheduled fee hike, according to the California State Student Association. Adenike Hamilton, president of Associated Students, Inc. is SF State’s representative.

Fong believes fee increases have made higher education difficult for many students.

“Our economic challenges have made access to higher education more difficult for many of California’s students and working families,” Fong said. “Student fees at our public colleges and universities have skyrocketed with little advance public notice, minimal consultation, little to no transparency and little to no accountability.”

Meredith Vivian, director of government and community relations at the California State Student Association, believes the bill will usher in an era of transparency.

“AB 970 is a huge achievement and helps increase transparency and accountability for CSU and UC schools,” Vivian said. “The consultation allows students and families of students more time to plan when a fee hike comes in.”

Monica Mendez, a sophomore studying geography, pays for college through financial aid.

“I pay for college by FAFSA entirely,” Mendez said. “I have never been affected negatively because my FAFSA has always been enough, but I know many people who could be helped by the notice that this bill gives.”

Erik Fallis, a CSU spokesman, believes that warning students of fee increases has always been a priority for the CSU system.

“As a general principle, we always support the student’s side,” Fallis said. “Sometimes we have to account for a budget being turned in late and that’s where fee increases come in.”

Mendez sees fee increases as a burden to students.

“It’s frustrating because people have to think about where the money is going to come from half way through the year,” Mendez said. “It just adds more stress to school.”

However, Fallis makes the point that although AB 970 has been passed, there is still a difficult relationship between the CSU system and the state.

“There is a disease — state support for California State University schools has decreased,” Fallis said. “The state provides less than 50 percent of resources for CSU. They provided 80 percent of resources in the late 1990s.”

Fong believes the bill will improve relations between the public and the University as a result.

“Sponsored by the California State Student Association and the University of California Student Association, AB 970 will improve communication between the UC and CSU students, the public and the Legislature,” Fong said.