California Faculty Association lobbies state legislature for CSU funding in light of tuition increase

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The California Faculty Association (CFA)’s annual Lobby Day event April 5 focused heavily on the CSU system-wide tuition increase approved at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting March 22.

“This year takes on a special edge to it because the trustees just voted to raise tuition and state funding doesn’t come in at the level the trustees requested,” said Alice Sunshine, communications director for CFA.

According to an April 4 CFA press release, faculty members and students from all 23 CSU campuses aimed to get Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators to increase funding for the CSU system.

The tuition increase is a result of Brown’s 2017-2018 budget proposal, which allocates $157.2 million of the $324.9 million requested by the 2017-2018 CSU Support Budget to the CSU system.

The tuition increase, set to go into effect in fall 2017, is $270 for undergraduate students, $312 for credential students and $438 for graduate students. According to the CSU Finance Committee, the increase will generate $77.5 million in revenue.

“CFA is going out there and arguing that (the state legislature) needs to at least fund the budget request from the trustees. It is not enough money to make up for all the money that was lost in the recession,” Sunshine said. “That’s still an ongoing problem.”

Lobby Day is a yearly event that has faculty members and students from each CSU come to Sacramento to talk with and convince legislators in the state Assembly and Senate to support bills and topics they find important, Sunshine said.

“We bring faculty from all over the state to the capital. Chapters do visits in their local areas sometimes, but they can only do that obviously when the legislators are visiting their home districts,” Sunshine said.

CFA Fullerton President Michele Barr said she was joined by three other representatives from CSUF at this year’s Lobby Day: Political science professor Shelly Arsneault, assistant computer science professor Michael Shafae and graduate student Liz Sanchez.

“The faculty always invite students to come to Lobby Day,” Sunshine said. “The legislators are always impressed to hear the students’ concerns.”

Barr said having student voices come to Sacramento helps put a face to the issues CFA is trying to address, even if classes and work can make it difficult for them to go.

“That’s why Lobby Day is important. If we put these bills out, if we got people to champion these bills and didn’t do this, these bills would not have a chance ever,” Barr said. “It’s not enough to create the bill, you now have to do the work to get that bill passed.”

Another focus of Lobby Day this year was Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva’s Assembly Bill 393, which if passed, would add a section to the California Education Code preventing tuition and statewide fee charges from increasing past what it was on Dec. 31, 2016 “notwithstanding any other law.”

According to the April 4 CFA press release, passing this bill would supersede the trustees’ decision.

In a March 28 press release from the CFA, they also encouraged messaging elected officials to “urge them to support” Quirk-Silva’s bill.

While AB 393 was a primary focus in relation to the recent tuition increase, Barr said CSUF focused on three other bills as well, including Assembly Bill 21 focusing on DACA students.

“Ultimately, the need for these bills all tie into the underfunding of the CSU,” Barr said.

Sunshine also said that Lobby Day is beneficial to members of the legislature because it allows them to get new perspectives on what issues are significant to their constituents.

“(Senator Ben Allen, CA District 26) was saying that these kinds of visits are so important because thousands of bills get floated in each session of the legislature, and that when people come to the capital and visit with the legislators in person from their various districts and explain why the bills they’re interested in are important, it helps focus some priority,” Sunshine said.

While Barr is not sure how much of an impact Lobby Day had on influencing future decisions regarding the tuition increase, she said the collective voices of the CSU student body can be more successful in getting ideas through the legislature.

“You can look at what the bill says on paper. You can talk about the budget and the issues, but when you take students in, you have students tell their stories about what it’s really like to finance your own education,” Barr said.

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