In a move that threatens the financial well-being of students and the integrity of California State University (CSU), trustees have given their approval to a plan that will see student tuition rise by 6 percent annually over the next five years. The cumulative effect of this hike amounts to a staggering 34 percent increase by the 2028-29 academic year. This decision, misguided and lacking foresight, will disproportionately affect current and prospective students, particularly those from Black, brown, immigrant, low-income, and first-generation college backgrounds.
The idea that public higher education should lead to a lifetime of debt is both unjust and unacceptable. CSU trustees must not burden students with the consequences of their financial mismanagement.
CSU executives, who are often disconnected from student realities, argue that higher tuition won’t harm students because financial aid exists. They advocate for a high-fee/high-aid model of higher education, claiming it is fair and equitable. However, research indicates that students of color and those from low-income families carry the heaviest burden of student debt. CSU management’s focus on financial aid overlooks the significant number of students grappling with housing and food insecurity.
Raising tuition only threatens to make CSU less diverse and more exclusive, catering solely to those who can afford the exorbitant costs of attendance.
CSU trustees and administrators may espouse their commitment to “Black student excellence,” tout their “Graduation Initiative” aimed at increasing graduation rates, and claim to operate in a “culture of care.” However, this tuition increase undermines these goals, pricing out many working-class Black and brown families, reducing graduation rates, and showing little regard for the well-being of students.
The actions of CSU management reveal their true priorities. They persist in decades of budget mismanagement and misuse of funds, all while asserting that this tuition increase is necessary for their financial sustainability. There never seems to be enough funding to properly compensate faculty and staff for their unwavering dedication to student success, but there is always a conveniently manufactured budget deficit to justify unfair costs to students.
Supporting the proposed tuition increase reflects the disconnect of trustees and administrators from the lived experiences of students and their families, as well as the long-term viability of CSU and public higher education in California.