Proposition 30's victory at the polls may have ended the prospect of deep midyear budget cuts for California's public universities, but students are in no mood to celebrate.
On Thursday, some of the very students who helped rally their campuses around the tax measure demonstrated across the Bay Area, demanding rollbacks to ever-rising tuition hikes and more space in overcrowded classes.
They learned that the new revenue from Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative will do little to fix California's higher education funding crisis in the long term, as the state's universities are still looking for creative ways to make space in lecture halls and squeeze more dollars from some students.
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One of their main beefs is a new proposal that California State University trustees will consider next week: to penalize students who take more than their fair share of classes by charging up to an additional $372 per credit in some cases.
And while Prop. 30 saves UC undergrads from any fee increases this academic year, university regents next week will consider boosting fees for graduate professional degree studies by as much as a 35 percent.
"It's a mistake for anyone to assume there's any windfall here for the University of California with the passage of Proposition 30," said Steve Montiel, media relations director for the UC Office of the President. "We avoided a very, very bad situation."
Young voters were considered critical to the measure's success; polls released this fall by the Public Policy Institute of California found 70 percent supported it, compared to about half of all likely voters. Now, with deep budget cuts and much higher fees averted, student leaders have focused again on the bigger picture: ever-increasing tuition and fees and reduced courses and services.
Proposition 30 kept the CSU and UC systems from losing $250 million each in state funding. Some CSU students will receive a tuition-hike refund as a result, and UC undergraduates will not see a double-digit tuition increase.
But university leaders stress that the budget picture remains bleak.
One CSU administrator said the system must look for ways to become more efficient, given its funding constraints. In the average academic year, students retake 80,000 courses, said Ephraim Smith, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. About 9,000 CSU students are considered "super seniors" who have accumulated far more credits than needed to graduate.
Fees that encourage students to pass their courses the first time and graduate within five years will free up space for as many as 18,000 new students, Smith said. In recent years, the system has had to turn away 20,000 students each year.
"The majority of students will never pay these fees, but by changing student behavior in the CSU, we can provide access to thousands of new students each year," Smith said.
Some students dismissed such arguments, saying the university should help them graduate by offering better advisement and more opportunities to take the courses they need, not by punishing them when they don't conform to a timeline.
Charging "super seniors" more is wrongheaded, said Krystal Bates, a fifth-year senior with a double-major in dance and business. Oftentimes, she said, students can't graduate on time because the courses they need aren't offered. Overwhelmed academic advisers are often of little help, she said, which leaves students to figure out their plans.
"I don't understand why they want to free up space for more students when they can't afford the students they have," Bates said.
Still, the CSU administration says it is confident the "super senior" fee in particular -- $372 for each semester unit above 160 (120 is the average number of credits needed for graduation) -- would have an immediate effect.
"If there is a fee levied on you, that's definitely going to change your behavior," said Michael Uhlenkamp, media relations director for the Office of the Chancellor.
Staff writers Daniel M. Jimenez and Natalie Neysa Alund contributed to this report. Contact Katy Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.