Larry Gordon, EdSource
Students study at Cal State Northridge.

The chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system pledged Tuesday not to raise tuition next year, a response to the recent generous higher education funding proposal from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Chancellor Timothy P. White’s announcement means that tuition will be frozen for a second year in a row at $5,742 annually for full-time undergraduates who are California residents. Those undergraduates taking six or fewer credits still would pay $3,330.

“You heard me correctly: tuition is off the table,” White told the CSU board of trustees meeting in Long Beach. When he received modest applause at first for that, he jokingly responded: “That’s all? Oh my. It must be early in the morning.”

Newsom’s first budget plan, released recently, proposed adding $300 million in extra ongoing funds for the CSU, an 8 percent raise above this year. That would include $62 million to enroll 7,300 more students, a 2 percent increase but less than half of what the university initially wanted. Newsom also insisted that tuition not be increased.

At Tuesday’s meeting, CSU trustees and administrators repeatedly expressed gratitude for Newsom’s plan and his target for enrollment growth. “We are ready and willing and able to enroll more students,” said Ryan Storm, assistant vice chancellor for budget. However there was no mention that the trustees previously had sought 18,000 more student slots.

In addition to tuition, CSU undergraduates pay a range of campus-based fees for such services as health centers and student activities that average in total $1,561 annually. If those all remain the same, which is uncertain, full time students’ costs will be $7,303, not including housing and food. Financial aid grants and waivers cover full tuition for about 60 percent of all undergraduates, officials said.

Mia Kagianas, president of the Cal State Student Association, said in an email that she had “mixed emotions” about the tuition freeze announcement and the governor’s budget.

“As a student leader, the idea of a tuition freeze is great news. However, it is also accompanied by skepticism that is informed by the realities of being a student in the CSU,” she said. Other costs, such as housing, food and transportation, worsen college affordability and are “arguably the most threatening to our students.” Financial aid must be expanded and reformed to cover more of those non-tuition costs, said Kagianas, who is a senior at Sacramento State.

Last year, CSU administrators had raised the possibility of a $228 tuition hike, or about 3.9 percent, but backed off from that after legislators promised more funds. The last CSU tuition increase was in fall 2017 when it rose $270 a year, or about 5 percent. Before that, a freeze had lasted five years.

CSU officials emphasized that this is still an early stage of the state budget process and that there may be more funding for increased enrollment by June when the Legislature adopts a final budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. In addition to the proposed $300 million in extra operating funds, Newsom called for an additional $262 million in one-time money that would primarily fund CSU campus buildings and building child care centers.

CSU system spokeswoman Toni Molle said that the university hopes to at least maintain the enrollment growth proposed in Newsom’s January budget plan. “We would likely start planning for a 2 percent increase and if the legislature and governor determine that additional funding for enrollment growth is appropriate, we could revise plans and potentially look to increase enrollment during the subsequent spring term,” she said.

At the 10-campus University of California system, officials do not anticipate a tuition increase for California undergraduates next year, but have not locked in that position yet, according to UC spokeswoman Claire Doan. “Discussions about the university budget will continue in the coming months,” she said Tuesday. For this year, the price of UC tuition and systemwide mandatory fees dropped $60 to $12,570, not including room, board, books and other expenses. The decline was caused by the end of a surcharge that paid the costs of legal cases the university lost. In addition to systemwide costs, UC undergraduates pay about $1,300 more on average for campus based fees.

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