Sep 20, 2023 - Education

Cal State tuition to increase starting next year despite protests

Illustration of a large pile of money with a graduation cap on top.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of Bay Area college students will pay more tuition starting next fall and for the next five years under a plan the California State University system board approved last week.

Why it matters: The cost of earning a college degree is getting more expensive, which limits who can attend universities — even public institutions like Cal State — that pride themselves on social mobility and economic diversity.

  • CSU is also on a mission to significantly increase graduation rates, particularly among low-income and underrepresented students, and eliminate equity gaps in degree completion by 2025.

By the numbers: Under the 6% annual tuition hike, students at San Francisco State University, Cal State East Bay, Cal Maritime, San José State and Sonoma State, among others, will pay $6,084 for the 2024-25 school year, up from $5,742 this fall.

  • That would reach $7,682 by the 2028-29 academic year, a 34% increase.
  • For graduate students, tuition would climb from $7,176 to $7,608 in the first year and to $9,604 by year five.
  • $34,072 is the current total estimated cost of attendance for students living on campus, including things like books and housing.

Context: Cal State has only increased its tuition once in the past 12 years.

  • About 60% of Cal State undergrads have their tuition fully covered by grants, scholarships or waivers, according to recent university reports.
  • The system touts that more than half of its students earning bachelor's degrees will graduate without any education loan debt.

Yes, but: The board of directors of Associated Students SFSU strongly opposed the tuition hike. In a petition submitted to CSU trustees, they wrote that it "lacks sufficient restructuring for financial aid, meaning that 40% of students would shoulder an increased financial burden without sufficient resources to help them afford their education."

The big picture: Tuition and fees across the 17 schools in the San Francisco metro area have increased since 2018, and the overall median cost for tuition and fees is $30,950 — almost double the nationwide median annual cost of $16,429, per federal data for the 2021-22 school year.

  • The same is true for local private universities, though tuition for local public universities only is slightly lower than the overall U.S. median.
Median college tuition in the San Francisco metro area
Data: National Center for Education Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

State of play: CSU faces a $1.5 billion budget shortfall, which prompted the board to consider the tuition increase for full-time undergrads.

  • The problem is CSU can't afford the costs of academic and support services necessary for students, many of whom are low-income and first-generation college attendees, Cal Matters writes.
  • The proposal sparked protests by students, faculty and staff across the system this summer.

Of note: CSU trustees will reevaluate the tuition increase in five years for the 2029-30 academic year.


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