Report: Fee Increase Is Needed

State Hornet
California State University, Sacramento

It’s been a month and a half since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his $125.6 billion California budget, but the Legislative Analyst’s Office California’s nonpartisan policy adviser has just weighed in on the governor’s plan to freeze the student fee increases, saying there should be slight, but regular, student fee increases every year instead.

According to the annual report, released on Feb. 23, the governor’s budget does not account the for fiscal ups and downs that the state often faces.

“The state has tended to make fee decisions based almost entirely on its fiscal condition raising fees in bad fiscal times and lowering them in good fiscal times,” according to the report.

Because of a revenue windfall from income taxes last year, Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed in January to pursue a “fee buyout” and move to freeze the 8 percent student fee increase that the CSU Board of Trustees agreed to in August 2005. The CSU system would receive $54.4 million, according to the analysts office.

Another problem the analysts office found with the governors fee policy is its unpredictability because the increases are not regulated.

According to the report, the average cost of education for an undergraduate student at a CSU rose 15-25 percent since 1997. Even still, CSU undergraduate and graduate students are paying less than if they were attending a university in any other state.

According to the report, a stable fee increase policy “provides clarity, ensures consistency” while both the university and the student pays costs to benefit from its activities.

In the report, the analyst’s office proposes to keep the share of cost of education at the current level (about 30 percent) and to have slight fee increases of 3 percent at the CSU system or about $76 for each student.

Although the analyst’s office has some pull in the Capitol, the Legislature and the governor do not have to implement its suggestions.

“The typical analysis acts as a context,” said Jennifer Kuhn, a legislative analyst. “The Legislature will take some parts of the report, but not others.”

H.D. Palmer, the deputy director of the California Department of Finance, said the governor’s budget proposal “provided sufficient funds” for the CSU system. He also said the budget provides “predictability and stability in the university tuition fees.”

“The governor took an opportunity (with his budget) to provide relief for families,” Palmer said.

Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, the chairman of the Senate subcommittee for higher education, also supported Gov. Schwarzenegger’s move to put a cap on the fees for 2006-07.

Scott said since student fees have been increased almost every year in the past,the governor’s budget gives students a break.

“It is wise to maintain what the governor wants to do,” Scott said.

Scott said that the California Legislature will probably go with the governor’s student fee freeze proposal in the budget.

Jamie Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]