State budget to provide some relief for CSU

Salaries for faculty and staff may rise as tuition drops in coming years for some Cal State University students, following Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the state budget.

The budget, signed into law on Thursday, provides $250 million of additional state funding to the CSU, half of which was promised to the system when it rescinded a 9 percent tuition increase in 2012-13.

The budget also includes the Middle Class Scholarship Act, which Brown signed in a trailer bill package Monday, according to John Vigna, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles).

The act, authored by Perez, will establish a scholarship program to slash student fees for CSU and University of California students. Students whose families earn less than $150,000 will see their tuition cut by up to 10 percent, and students whose families earn less than $100,000 will see cuts of up to 40 percent, according to Elizabeth Stitt, senior press aide at Perez’s office.

According to CSU Spokesman Erik Fallis, the newly-signed budget is a positive development for the 23-campus system.
“We’re looking at a reinvestment,” Fallis said. “We’re looking at meeting some critical needs [of the CSU], though [the state budget] doesn’t meet all those needs.”

Fallis said that after deducting reoccurring costs — such as utilities — from the additional funding, about $40 million will remain to address student success and access.

More than half of the remaining funding will go toward increasing student enrollment, but Fallis said it’s not enough to meet the needs of every potential CSU student.

“Clearly we have students out there who want to get into [the CSU] system who we can’t accommodate at this point, potential students who are able and qualified,” he said. “We don’t have the seats for them … It’s one of our chief needs that we’ve identified with the state.”

The additional state funding could also lead to pay increases for faculty and staff, according to Fallis, something that California Faculty Association President Lillian Taiz said is a step forward.

“This is a small step in the right direction,” Taiz said. “We’re happy to see a change … The amount of resources they’re talking about is rather small, so it doesn’t solve all of the problems.”

According to Taiz, CSU faculty and staff have not received a pay raise since 2007-08.

Fallis said that any pay raises must first be negotiated, and according to Taiz, discussions for the potential pay increases will begin at the end of July.

Meanwhile, the California Student Aid Commission will begin establishing the Middle Class Scholarship program this year, according to Vigna. He said the program will begin cutting student fees in 2014-15 and should be fully implemented by 2017-18.

CSU students currently pay a basic tuition fee of $5,472, which could drop to $3,283 for some students under the scholarship program.

Senior biochemistry major Erika Torres, who will return to Cal State Long Beach in fall 2014, said she thinks the scholarship program could encourage future students to pursue a degree.

“Anything that they can do for any university student is really a big deal,” Torres said, “because we’re talking about getting an education so [students] can work, and in the long run, if [students] run into debt, then they’re not going to get an education.”

Junior psychology major Nathan Licata said he’s excited for the scholarship program to start.

“I can’t wait until that kicks in,” Licata said. “Student fees are ridiculous. It’ll definitely help my wallet, that’s for sure.”

Assistant City Editor Andrew Spencer contributed to this report.

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