California State University Board of Trustees voted 11-8 for a $270 annual tuition increase which will take effect this fall. Students shouted their protests both inside and outside the doors of Chancellor Timothy White’s office.
Outside, over a hundred CSU students, staff and advocates rallied outside the Chancellor’s office at the Board of Trustees meeting in downtown Long Beach today, participating in student-run demonstrations and chants in order to protest the proposed 5 percent tuition increase.
The increase was on the floor for discussion for almost three hours while students voiced their disapproval and board members challenged one another. The tuition hike will affect all Cal State undergraduate, graduate and non-residential students.
The 63 percent of CSU students who have their tuition fully covered by grants or waivers will not be affected by the increase, as the CSU set aside $30 million to make sure grants and waivers would remain the same.
Board members blamed the tuition increase on the lack of state funding for the CSU system, claiming that they wouldn’t have to look to students to pay if the state provided the funds in the first place. Still, others were against the increase, saying that students should not have to make up for what the state is lacking. Some members tried to delay the vote until after the state budget receives finalized in June, in hopes that changes could be made in favor of the CSU and students.
While this vote was being deliberated, the group of demonstrators outside grew throughout the day as buses shuttled Cal State Long Beach students from Brotman Hall to the Chancellor’s Office every half hour from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a caravan bus drove students to Long Beach from as far as Chico State. Students wearing black SQE shirts spoke their testimonials and unifying chants into megaphones, issuing waves of cheers and shouts of protest from the group. Rallying cries such as: “End-end privatization, take back our education!” and “No justice, no peace! No tuition increase!” were shouted by protesters throughout the day.
The rally hoped to encourage and pressure Board of Trustees members to vote against the tuition increase.
According to a statement released by the CSU, state funding has dropped from providing 80 percent of CSU costs in the ‘90s to about 50 percent in 2016-2017. Trustees requested $324.9 million in state funding for 2017-2018 and received less than half, leaving a $168 million gap for the CSU to fill.
“We have to go hard on the legislature so that they are not asking students to fill the [budget] hole,” trustee Lateefah Simon said in response to the increase. Simon urged her colleagues to vote against the tuition increase and force the state to come up with their money without the help of students.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom also advocated against the increase, saying that doing so would only be playing into the hand of the state legislature.
“We’re doing the job of the legislature. If we want something to change, we have to do something different,” said Newsom. “What if we actually do something unpredictable and say no [to the tuition increase]. We got creative [in 2011] with burdening the students, we can get creative in not burdening the students.”
Newsom wanted the board to delay voting until the state funding was made final in June in order to give the state some time to reallocate the funds in the CSU’s favor. With the board voting in favor of the tuition increase, the state is less likely to consider raising funds for the CSUs.
“What’s frustrating here is that we’re so predictable,” said Newsom following the vote. “We did [the state’s] bidding for them, we increased $77.5 million revenue … so now they’re off the hook. We’ve become predictable and as a consequence, we continue to burden more and more debt on the backs of our students.”
Newsom told students following the vote to not be discouraged by the results and instead carry their energy and fight the tuition increase in Sacramento.
“It’s disappointing of course to lose this part of the fight, but this is just a battle that was lost, not a war,” said Joelle Eliza Lingat, a student from the City University of New York who flew to Long Beach to protest the tuition hike. “The overall fight for social justice and equality … will continue and it won’t start or end with the board of trustees.”
Lingat is a member of Anakbayan USA, a national Filipino Democratic mass organization that works to fight for democracy and equality nationwide. Lingat said the decision of the board matters on a national scale since California often sets the precedent for other states.
“Whatever precedent is set will justify whatever action is taken in other states … it gives a message to the rest of the country,” said Lingat. “The state is enabling this type of policy to exist and affirming it and students across the country are now going to be impacted by this vote.”
Students have one hope in not seeing a tuition increase: if the state decides in June to increase funds for the CSU system, the tuition increase will be rescinded. Board members urged students to take the fight to Sacramento before the final budget decisions are made.
Miranda Andrade-Ceja contributed to this article