As the students get darker, the funds get lighter and the tuition gets higher. For the first time in six years, the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees has voted 11-8 to raise tuition for the 2017-2018 school year. This coming fall, undergraduates will be paying an extra $270 in an already hefty tuition and fees bill, which is disappointing news for students of color who already struggle financially in the CSU system.
According to the 2016 California Faculty Association (CFA) Equity Report, 62 percent of the CSU student body identify with an ethnic or racial group that is not white. Many of these students must work one or more jobs in order to cover the high cost of a college education. The pressure can become unbearable for students going through these extremely stressful situations, often being forced to pile multiple jobs on top of being a full-time student. A rise in tuition inevitably means even more hours to cover the cost.
The CFA found that in 1985, the average CSU student had to work 199 hours at minimum wage in order to pay for a year of schooling. In present day that workload is looking more like 685 hours. With a tuition increase of $270 and California minimum wage at $10.50 per hour for the fall, CSU students will have to work an extra 20-25 hours next year. This is time that college student cannot afford to lose. Those hours could be spent cooking dinner, grocery shopping, sleeping, or even studying, things that college students don’t do enough of as it is.
When the money made from those two or three jobs doesn’t suffice anymore, students of color often turn to loans. Students of color are more likely to accrue debt than white students, according to a 2015 report on racial disparities by Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at a public policy organization called Demos. Huelsman found that 81 percent of Black students who graduate from public colleges borrow from lenders, compared to 63 percent for white graduates.
Additionally, student borrowers of color are more likely to drop out of school than white student borrowers. At public universities, Black student borrowers drop out at a rate of 39 percent while their white peers are affected at a rate of 29 percent. These percentages swell at for-profit schools, where Black and Latinx student borrowers have a 66 percent combined average dropout rate.
According to Huelsman’s research, debt doesn’t just place graduates under economic stress but also impacts the satisfaction they feel about their future jobs. It was stated that those who graduate with substantial amounts of debt were found to have levels of satisfaction around 11 percent less than those free of debt.
As the CSU system becomes an institution comprised primarily of students of color, there appears to be a trend of decreased funding and increased costs. It seems that students of color are being economically pushed out of higher education or graduating more economically disadvantaged than white graduates. Students of color are under stress, and if they have taken out loans, are not as content in their careers. The rise in tuition can be seen as a symbol of the continuing disempowerment of people of color, keeping them less able than white folks to engage in spending power and many other monetary privileges.
We see that this tuition raise will hit students of color the most. There is no doubt that all students will be impacted including white students. Looking at the intersection of the issue with a critical eye, however, we can see that student oppression meets race head on. It is evident that students of color will continue to be disempowered if the cost of public education continues growing at the same rate that it has over the past 30 years.