California Higher Education Still a Bargain

The Los Angeles Times reports on the 10 percent fee hike to California State University students.

California State University trustees Wednesday approved a 10% increase in undergraduate and graduate student fees for the coming school year, with one board member saying it was the only way to absorb deep funding cuts without turning away thousands of students and eliminating teaching posts.

“Until California changes its priorities . . . we only have bad choices,” Board of Trustees Chairman Jeffrey Bleich said before the 17-2 vote.

Can the fee hike really be called a bad choice? California is facing at least a $15 billion deficit for fiscal 2010 even if the May 19 propositions, which include higher taxes and other dubious budget fixes, pass.

In fact, California has one of the lowest cost for state higher education at every level. As Dan Walters recently reported in the Sacramento Bee:

The $20-per-unit community college fee is, by far, the lowest in the nation. The $600 it costs for a year’s full load of classes in California would be more than $900 in the next-lowest state, New Mexico, and is less than one-fourth the national average of $2,700.

State university fees, $3,849 a year, are much lower than any of the other comparable state university systems and scarcely half the average of $7,516.

The University of California’s current fees, $8,027 a year, are not quite the lowest of comparable systems — University at Buffalo, N.Y., has that ranking at $6,285. But UC’s fees are nearly $2,000 below the average and just two-thirds of the most expensive school, the University of Illinois.

The $306 fee increase is less than $25 a month per student. Far less than most college students are spending monthly on cell phone and i-pod downloads.