Credit: Julie Leopo / EdSource
Cal State Northridge

The Cal State system knows it needs to give its employees sizable salary and wage increases, but finding and getting the money to do so means relying on the state. 

And on top of that, Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering whether to sign a bill that would require the system to give CSU staff increases over the next 10 years that would cost $878 million, but neither the bill nor CSU has any money to pay for it.

It all adds up to a huge problem for CSU, which faces a wide gap between the raises it wants to give faculty and staff and what it can afford.  As a state system, CSU got in line early to ask for a healthy increase in funding in the 2023-24 state budget, an early version of which Newsom will unveil in January.

The CSU Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to request $530 million in new money for the system’s operating budget, including $261 million for the raises. But that request still falls short of what would be needed to cover staff and faculty salary increases and to repair and upgrade buildings across CSU’s 23 campuses. 

The $530 million request includes: 

  • $55 million for the Graduation Initiative 2025 to improve graduation rates and decrease inequitable racial and socioeconomic gaps in college completion.
  • $20 million to address student basic needs such as food insecurity.
  • $261 million to improve faculty and staff compensation.
  • $50.6 million to grow enrollment by 1%.
  • $50 million to help improve facilities.

Cal State board members and officials say they know that faculty and staff are woefully underpaid and compensation needs to be improved. But finding the money to do so has become a challenge. 

This year, the Chancellor’s Office had to ask campus presidents to cover a $44 million shortfall needed to pay for raises paid out to honor agreements with the employee unions. Those presidents were forced to use their campus reserves or make cuts to fulfill those promises. 

A study released in May on non-faculty staff and employee salaries found CSU lacks consistent and updated job classifications, and there is no consistency in how the university system advances or increases individual wages and salaries. The study recommended the system create a step-salary structure, new pay ranges that adjust wages to the market median, and increase salaries annually by 3.05% to remain competitive. Implementing those recommendations would require $287 million with ongoing costs in the tens of millions of dollars per year. 

The CSU system is still awaiting the details of an ongoing faculty salary study that is expected to be released in the spring, interim Chancellor Jolene Koester said. 

“We know there’s going to be a big number that comes out of the faculty study,” trustee Jack McGrory said. “I see it every day out in San Diego State. We try to recruit, and we’re paying a ridiculously low salary, and we’re not competing in the market. If we’re going to be a top-ranked national public university, we’ve got to pay competitively no matter what.” 

The system also faces a bill that could force it into funding the staff salary study. Senate Bill 410, which passed the Legislature in August and awaits the governor’s signature, would require CSU to create a nine-step merit salary system for all non-faculty employees. It includes annual salary increases of 5% for the first five years, three separate 5% increases every two years, and a final increase three years later for a total of 15 years. 

Koester said the bill would significantly impact the system and that the full cost of implementing the staff salary study would be about $878 million over 10 years. 

“I do not oppose giving staff the salary that they deserve to have,” Koester said. “We do oppose being directed to take it from current funds.” 

Board members ultimately decided to ask the Legislature for even more money in the spring once the faculty study results are released instead of increasing their request now. 

The budget request for next year also includes $1.3 billion in one-time funds, and $50 million ongoing, to help CSU campuses reinvest and improve some buildings. The building funding request doesn’t come close to meeting the needs across the system. The campuses have identified a backlog of about $5.8 billion needed to update facilities built between 1950 through the 1970s.

CSU Long Beach students staged a walkout last week because of a lack of air conditioning and poor conditions in the university’s classrooms and dorms amid record-high 100-plus degree heat, said Jane Close Conoley, president of the Long Beach campus. 

“More than half of our facilities are greater than half a century old at the beach and have seen no major capital renewal investment,” she said. “These buildings were built before climate change was even a real term.”

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  1. Vanessa Dixon 1 week ago1 week ago

    Beyond CSULB, buildings and classrooms are old with no AC, which is a huge problem. It has been two and a half years with no administrative support or guidance throughout the pandemic. I make less than minimum wage if you add up the time required for grading and responding to endless emails from students asking, what did I miss in class today? I couldn't make class because I have anxiety and mental health issues. I … Read More

    Beyond CSULB, buildings and classrooms are old with no AC, which is a huge problem. It has been two and a half years with no administrative support or guidance throughout the pandemic. I make less than minimum wage if you add up the time required for grading and responding to endless emails from students asking, what did I miss in class today? I couldn’t make class because I have anxiety and mental health issues.

    I want to respond. What you missed was my class. Sorry to hear about your mental health issues, and no, I will not email you back; ASAP, this is college, and I am not your mom. Lastly, you are not unique. We all have mental health issues. Join the club!

    That response would probably not go over well for student evaluations.

    This week has been horrible, and I am teaching to a computer screen with names. We have no standard policies for students taking virtual classes. Can we or can’t we require students to be on camera?

    We have horrible WIFI on campus. Due to class schedules, students are taking Face 2 Face (F2F) and virtual classes on campus. They have no place to go to take a virtual class. They can go to places like the campus center or the library. They are large spaces and are not conducive to learning. It has been a nightmare teaching, and not having students be able to participate in class is stressful for an educator. As faculty, we also have the same schedule. Teaching online with weak WIFI and campus events outside your office window is impossible. I do feel I have to right to hold my students accountable, which I did after class yesterday.

    Part of the post to my students.

    I need to share my disappointment regarding today’s class.
    Reminder: You signed up for a virtual class; it requires the same effort and responsibility as if you signed up for an in-person course. Driving, working, shopping, getting a haircut, getting your nails done, going to the dentist, and being at the gym during class is not okay.

    My post may read like a rant, which it partly is, but we need change. The CSU systemwide is enrolling students that are incredibly underprepared for college. Students are submitting papers that are about a 3rd to 4th-grade level. I teach Sociology, not English. For the past few years, I have allowed students to re-write their assignments, requiring them to attend the writing lab. I can’t do this anymore. Teaching 4-5 classes, I don’t have the time or the energy to grade assignments twice. Students need more supportive services, and why have we gotten rid of the 100-level courses for underprepared students?

    We are campaigning to have students graduate in 5 years, and people think it is good. Our students are not traditional. Students take five classes, work 30-40 hours a week, and have family responsibilities. An equation for failure! I feel morally and ethically challenged when my students graduate, knowing they are unprepared for the real world. I hope my post resonates with somebody. I am a problem-solver, failure is not in my DNA. I am ready for the CSU system to seeing that they are creating trauma for our students. Imagine how it feels to graduate from college, complete your degree, and lack the skills necessary to be successful.

  2. Greg Lipford 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    "The Cal State system knows it needs to give its employees sizable salary and wage increases ..." The use of the word "need" throughout is a distinctly non-journalistic term since it is entirely subjective without explaining the consequences of not meeting the "need." The word "want" was used elsewhere in the story, and that is more accurate. Read More

    “The Cal State system knows it needs to give its employees sizable salary and wage increases …”

    The use of the word “need” throughout is a distinctly non-journalistic term since it is entirely subjective without explaining the consequences of not meeting the “need.” The word “want” was used elsewhere in the story, and that is more accurate.

  3. Eri Roman 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    The CSU has the money! They have a slush fund full of $2.5 billion dollars, of which, $714 million is for discretionary spending during economic uncertainty! Faculty and Staff uncertainty seems like a great reason to do the right thing and use this fund! The CSU should not be a system of poverty that staff, faculty, and students have to endure. They have the solutions. CSU Management needs to move out of the way and new leaders … Read More

    The CSU has the money!

    They have a slush fund full of $2.5 billion dollars, of which, $714 million is for discretionary spending during economic uncertainty!

    Faculty and Staff uncertainty seems like a great reason to do the right thing and use this fund!

    The CSU should not be a system of poverty that staff, faculty, and students have to endure. They have the solutions.

    CSU Management needs to move out of the way and new leaders need to come in. New leaders that know how to run a higher education institution, not some damn corporation.

    #noconfidence