The Cal State system received a shock when Governor Jerry Brown released his proposal for the 2018-19 state budget.
The biggest news was the decrease in funding from the expected $263 million, to a much smaller $92.1 million. This leaves a $171 million gap in funding that is likely going to be forced on students.
Unfortunately, the first reaction from the Cal State Board of Trustees is to fall back on an increase in tuition. While this may seem like the easiest way to make up the funds needed, it once again hurts students by pricing out those who can’t make up the difference.
This especially hurts considering the board increased the salaries for all executive members and campus presidents by 2.5 percent late last year. It raises the question of why the board did not wait to learn what the budget would be this year before voting.
The board should have waited to learn what the proposed budget would look like before deciding to give themselves raises. Chancellor Timothy White already declined to take a pay cut on his salary of $450,345, citing his pay cut in 2012.
Even though no one wants tuition to go up, Brown’s reasoning for the lack of funding makes sense. Due to President Trump’s new tax code and economic policies, Brown is trying to prepare for a recession and cuts to social programs.
When interviewed by the Sacramento Bee, Brown explained his plan is to build a “piggy bank” for the next governor to “get them through the recession with a minimum amount of pain.”
On one hand this logic makes sense, but the amount of money that Brown is proposing to move into reserves is far too high. The state will move $5 billion to its reserve, meaning the fund will hold ten percent of the state’s general fund revenue.
Brown’s goal of building a stash for the future is not necessarily a bad idea, but the proposed $5 billion will put too much of a strain on the Cal State system. This forces colleges to implement a steep increase for students.
To make up the difference in funding in-state, undergraduate students attending full time will see their tuition increase by $228, to a total of $5970. While some students may be able to bear this increase, it will push out students who already struggle to meet the current rate.
The increase also risks the school’s appeal to out-of-state students who face a larger increase. Under the new rate, they will see their tuition go up by almost $900, meaning they will pay $12,780 annually.
So not only do we risk losing in-state students, we could potentially lose out-of-state students who balk at the increase. This may not mean too much in the present, but could hurt the school financially in the long term.
The state’s plan is not bad in theory, but by underfunding Cal State system places an unnecessarily large burden on the students who need the most help.
Brown’s budget proposal will not be voted on until May, but the governor needs to rethink the amount the amount he plans to stash away in this rainy day fund. For the sake of students the board and the state needs to find another solution that does not rely solely on tuition.