Possible tuition hike worries Sonoma State University students

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Sonoma State students could see their first tuition increase in six years next fall.

California State University leaders want to increase undergraduate tuition by $270 at its 23 campuses, including Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

With enrollment at an all-time high, CSU officials say they need to add more classes and hire additional faculty and advisors, but have received insufficient funds from the state to close a $168 million funding gap.

Students currently pay tuition of $5,472 annually. If approved by the CSU Board of Trustees next month, tuition would increase to $5,742.

“It pisses me off. I can barely afford it now,” SSU freshman Roxette Isidro said of the proposed tuition increase.

Isidro, who lives on campus and is the first in her family to attend college, said scholarships cover most of her costs. She still has to pay out of pocket $172 a semester — without an increase in tuition.

“I’m here to help my family out of poverty by getting a higher education,” said Isidro, 19. “Having a higher tuition can mess that up.”

The last time CSU, the nation’s largest public university system, raised tuition was in 2011.

According to SSU’s financial aid office, SSU’s tuition of $5,472 is only part of the education expense at the university. Room and board, books and supplies, and fees add thousands of dollars to the cost of attendance.

Although a tuition increase would not close the funding gap, CSU officials said it would generate roughly $78 million. The money would be used to hire 400 new faculty, add 3,000 “highly demanded” classes and expand supplemental instruction, said Toni Molle, CSU’s public affairs director.

But the system also has physical plant upgrade needs that could cost $2 billion.

The proposed hike reportedly sparked a small student protest outside a CSU Board of Trustee meeting in Long Beach in November.

The 23-campus system includes about 470,000 students.

At SSU, which has about 9,400 students, Isidro said few know about the possible increase. She said it would affect many first-generation students like her. Isidro said her freshman year’s cost — room, board, fees, books, supplies — will be $19,450, all but $4,550 of it covered by financial aid.

While scholarships pay for most of the remainder, she must still pay some of the outstanding balance.

Paul Shkrabov, a SSU freshman majoring in global studies, said he recently learned about the proposed hike through a friend.

He said he’ll have to find another part-time job to cover an increase. He currently works as a temporary tattoo artist, creating sketches to sell online.

Shkrabov, 19, called the proposed hike “pretty significant.”

“I’m paying for college by myself,” including student loans, he said while having lunch with friends in the campus cafeteria.

Lucas Wasiak, a sophomore sitting at the table with Shkrabov, was surprised to hear about the increase.

“Tuition is already very high. The fact they’re asking for another $270 is ridiculous,” said Wasiak, 20.

Officials said more than 60 percent of CSU undergraduate students — or about 255,000 students — have tuition fully covered by financial aid. They wouldn’t be affected by an increase.

SSU spokesman Nicolas Grizzle said more than 230 full-time undergraduate students are fully covered by financial aid at his campus.

You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or eloisa.gonzalez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @eloisanews.

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