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Tuition raised for California State campuses in middle of school year

By Michael Martinez, CNN
  • Tuition will jump next semester to $2,220 from $2,115 for full-time undergrads
  • Next fall, full-time undergrad tuition will rise again, to $4,884 per year
  • Last year, the Cal State system had to cut classes and furlough staff

(CNN) -- Blaming the state's uncertain financial outlook, the California State University's board of trustees approved Wednesday a mid-year tuition increase of 5 percent for this academic year and a 10 percent increase for the 2011-2012 academic year.

The 5 percent increase will raise tuition from the current $2,115 to $2,220 for the spring semester for full-time undergraduate students.

Next fall, full-time undergraduate tuition rise from $4,440 to $4,884 per year.

Trustees sought to soften the blow by stating that about half of its undergraduates -- about 180,000 students -- will be fully covered for the tuition increases through financial aid. They added that newly expanded federal tax credits will help cover the increases for tens of thousands of students from families with annual incomes of up to $180,000.

Trustees also said they would ask the governor and legislature for additional funding with the hope that the 2011-2012 tuition increase could be rescinded.

The midyear tuition hike was controversial. The trustees voted 14-2 for the increase, with Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Student Trustee Nicole Anderson voting against it. The board voted 13-3 for the 2011-12 tuition increase with Melinda Guzman joining Maldonado and Anderson in voting no.

"While we appreciate the funding that we did receive in this year's budget, the reality is our state support is roughly the same as it was five years ago and we have 25,000 more students," said a statement issued by Dr. Benjamin F. Quillian, the Cal State system's executive vice chancellor for business and finance.

Quillian said the system has already allocated a one-time federal stimulus payment of $106 million to admit 30,000 more students, and it needs the tuition hike "to ensure that we have the ongoing resources to support them," he said.

Last year, the Cal State system had to cut classes and furlough and lay off staff.

Last June, the trustees assumed that state funding would keep tuition down, and the board decided to cut a proposed 10 percent hike to only 5 percent. But the additional state funding didn't come through as California battled a budget crisis, leaving the Cal State system with a $64 million shortfall.

The midyear increase of 5 percent will allow the system to restore 3,000 course offerings for the winter-spring semester, and that number is expected to double next academic year, officials said.

Trustees said the Cal State system remains among the least expensive of comparable systems in the nation. Its annual tuition and fees this year of $5,834 -- including the average campus fee of $950 -- would rank as the second lowest among 15 comparable institutions and would be $2,848 (33 percent) below the group average.

The Cal State system is the largest recipient of federal Pell Grants, and about half of its undergrads have their tuition paid by financial aid such as State University Grants, Cal Grants and Cal State tuition and fee waivers.

A third of the revenues from the tuition increases will be used for financial aid, officials said.

Many students at the system's 23 campuses objected to the tuition increase. At the Long Beach, California, campus, where the trustees held their meeting, students were planning mock the tuition hike by holding a carnival with clowns and games.

Cal State spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said he understood the students' concerns.

"It's obviously a difficult time any time you're asking students to bear more of the financial burden of their education," he said.