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Cal State to call student fees 'tuition,' ending long-standing tradition

November 8, 2010 |  3:45 pm


Ending a decades-long tradition, the California State University system plans to start using the word “tuition” instead of “fees” to refer to the educational costs it charges to students.

The move marks a fundamental philosophical shift in the ideal of offering Californians a tuition-free public college education, a principle enshrined in the state’s master plan for higher education adopted 50 years ago.

California students have long paid fees for specialized or optional services such as health, housing and recreation.

But in recent years, as the state has been hit by recessions, its public colleges have increasingly charged students hefty fees to help cover their educational costs as well.

Tuition is a more accurate and honest description of the charges, Cal State officials said. It is also in line with the label most widely used by colleges and universities across the country.

“It's a case of truth in advertising and saying, ‘Let's be honest with ourselves and honest with everyone else,'" said Robert Turnage, the university’s assistant vice chancellor for budget.

Cal State Chancellor Charles Reed is expected to issue an executive order to implement the change by the end of the year and will also specify which campus charges will continue to be called fees, officials said. Cal State trustees will be briefed on the change at a  board meeting that starts Tuesday  and informally, the university will begin using the new term immediately. University of California regents are expected to consider a similar wording change at their meeting in San Francisco next week, UC spokesman Peter King said.

At the meetings, both boards also are expected to approve increases in those charges to students. Cal State leaders have proposed a two-step undergraduate fee hike of 5% for the rest of this school year and an additional 10% for next year. UC leaders will consider an undergraduate increase of  8% for next school year.  Basic fees for undergraduates now top $10,000 annually at UC and $4,200 at Cal State.

-- Carla Rivera

Photo: Students protest fee hikes at UCLA last year. Los Angeles Times