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California State University to vote on tuition hike in March

FILE -- The campus of California State University, Bakersfield is seen Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Carol Ferguson)

California State University's governing board said Tuesday it will vote in March whether to raise tuition for the first time in six years at its 23 campuses.

Executive Vice Chancellor Steve Relyea told the Board of Trustees that the nation's largest public university system needs to hire more faculty and create more classes to accommodate record high enrollment. Insufficient state funding could leave no option but raising tuition, which he called a last resort.

"The option of increasing tuition is not one that we take lightly," said Relyea, who is also the board's chief financial officer.

The proposed annual hikes would increase the current undergraduate tuition by $270 for the 2017-18 school year. The current tuition is $5,472.

He said about 60 percent of California State University students, or about 225,000 undergraduates, have their tuition fully covered by financial aid and would not be affected by the increase.

The vote will come before trustees in March, before CSU receives its final budget from the state in July. The provisional budget indicates CSU will receive $150.2 million in additional revenue, but that would still leave a shortfall of $168 million, said spokeswoman Toni Molle.

Several students and trustees voiced concerns at Tuesday's meeting, noting that tuition is only part of the expense of attending college, which costs thousands more after housing, books and living expenses are factored in.

"Use your power to stop the tuition increase," Dulce Lopez, a student at CSU Dominguez Hills, said. "You have no idea what it's like to work two or three jobs to pay for school."

Trustee Maggie White said she was opposed to raising tuition. Even if about 60 percent of students are untouched by an increase, she said, that leaves 40 percent who are affected by it.

"I'm very deeply concerned about the effect tuition increase would have on our students," she said.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is also on the board, urged trustees to oppose the increase, which he said would give state government and legislature an excuse not to increase public financial support for California State universities.

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