New law will open higher education fee increase process to students

S.F. Examiner File PhotoOut in the open: AB 970 will require the state’s university systems to open their budget process to students and the Legislature.

Students in both the California State University and University of California systems have had to absorb massive budget cuts in recent years through rising fees. But thanks to legislation taking effect in the new year, governing boards for higher education will have to bring students to the table before any fee increases are implemented.

California Assembly Bill 970 requires trustees and regents to create a list of factors to consider before increasing fees, and it also requires those governing boards to provide annual expenditures to the state Legislature.

Specifically, the bill addresses concerns over the rapid rise in fees with little advance notice to the public or consultation with the students who ultimately pay them, said Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, who authored the bill with Assemblyman Marty Block, D-San Diego.

“This measure will ensure that student fee increases are discussed in an open and public manner, provide students with advance consultation and notification in order to prepare for these fee increases if they are needed, and provide transparency so the public is aware of how these new student fee revenues will be used,” Fong said in a statement.

According to his office, student fees at all 23 CSU campuses have increased by 76 percent in the past three years, and fees have risen by 68 percent at the 10 UC campuses.

For Adenike Hamilton, president of the Associated Students group at San Francisco State University, this bill will give students advance notice to plan out their finances, along with a voice they did not necessarily have before.

Hamilton, a senior, said fees and tuition have increased every year since she started attending SFSU.

“At this point, I’m in a ton of debt,” she said. “I’m looking forward to graduation and a degree, but I also know that degree comes with thousands and thousands of dollars in debt that I will eventually have to pay back.”

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said AB 970 is not the answer to the higher education funding crisis, but it’s a start.

“It does ensure that students are part of the process when it comes to raising their fees,” Newsom’s office said in a statement. “This is an important step towards including the most important stakeholders in the higher education conversation — and that is good.”

Newsom has been a vocal proponent for higher education reforms since taking office in 2011.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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