Trustees for the California State University system met in Long Beach this week, and the meeting was remarkable both because of what was discussed as well as what wasn’t.

The CSU chancellor and a vice chancellor talked about all of the ways the system is trying to cut costs without affecting the students’ education. After years of budget cuts, but with funding finally inching back up, spending money more efficiently is a necessity for survival. The system has made significant progress in that regard.

What wasn’t discussed was fee increases.

After many years of saddling students with higher tuition, that was almost the de facto approach to deal with an unbalanced budget each year — just raise fees on students to make up for what the system considered to be funding shortfalls.

This time, fee increases weren’t even on the agenda. We applaud Chancellor Timothy White for that.

White had the good sense to realize California families and students are at their breaking point.

His counterpart in the University of California system, Janet Napolitano, took the opposite approach. When she learned how much funding Gov. Jerry Brown wanted to give the UC system, her response was to tell the UC governing board that tuition would have to be hiked 28 percent over five years.

Of course, she said it was being done reluctantly.

Students were upset, for good reason. So was Brown. State legislators were, too. Brown said if the tuition hike went through, he would withhold $120 million from the UC system, a high-stakes ransom that still hasn’t been settled. Brown and Napolitano are meeting to hash it out.

We doubt they will be successful. Frankly, the UC system has shown an inability to grasp the full effects of continued tuition hikes. Late last year there was an effort by two state senators to strip the University of California of the constitutional independence from the Legislature it has enjoyed since 1878. The purpose was to give the Legislature unprecedented control over UC, likely making it subject to the same laws and oversight as California State University and the state’s community colleges.

We were fearful that the CSU would follow the UC’s lead. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened. It was wise for White to recognize that students come first.

But the delicate dance has taken another turn. While families feel fortunate that the high cost of a college education has held steady for a couple of years, employees at CSU campuses are upset that they aren’t getting a bigger piece of pie. There’s the threat of a strike.

It’s almost a no-win argument, but White turned it into a winning argument at the trustees meeting, showing that the system is at least looking critically at all dollars spent.

Steve Relyea, executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer for the CSU, outlined the savings realized by the system in recent years.

Then there’s the fact that not all 23 schools need to perform all functions independently. So the system has saved money on, for example, having Cal State Stanislaus process parking tickets for eight CSU campuses.

Relyea said the system has cut insurance rates by $4 million, software contracts by $2.5 million over five years, data storage by $2 million annually and workers’ compensation claims by $7 million. And the system is saving million in energy costs, both from turning toward renewable energy and designing energy-efficient buildings.

Still, Relyea and White both say the university system needs more funding. Brown has proposed a $120 million funding increase in the next school year. The CSU trustees say they need $97 million on top of that.

That’s what you’d expect them to say. They are advocating for their institutions. It doesn’t mean they’ll get it.

But we like their approach much better than Napolitano’s. From a strategic standpoint, doing all you can on the expense side makes more sense to the public — the taxpayers who own the universities and pay the bills — than constantly raising fees.

[Source]: Daily Democrat