Tuition Freeze for Some, But Not All – CSU Extended Education
By David Bradfield & Kevin Wehr
Recently, the State Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a budget that recognizes the need for a public university system that is an accessible, affordable avenue for millions of Californians seeking the path to prosperity and a better life. This budget stops the cycle of decreased funding for public higher education and freezes what has become an annual rite of tuition increases.
However, there is a gaping loophole to the tuition freeze within the California State University (CSU) system, which operates on minimal oversight and accountability.
Within this “People’s University” lies a separate and unequal educational model called “Extended Education.” Originally developed as a “self-support” extension of the public university designed to offer non-traditional adult students the chance to take college courses, Extended Education has grown and morphed into an enormous program that offers almost 150 degrees to over 250,000 students.
This self-generating private system within a public entity has grown rapidly over the past several decades, but with practically no oversight or transparency, and with little accountability to the very student body it was designed to serve.
A special report issued this year by the California Faculty Association demonstrated that in Extended Education, students pay more, without the same public scrutiny showered on tuition set for the “public” side of the CSU. The cost to obtain a degree through Extended Education can be more than double the cost of going through the regular courses. Worse, there are restrictions to the types of financial aid that can be used to pay for Extended Education courses, creating a double-whammy to a student’s pocketbook.
The report can be read at: http://www.calfac.org/forprofitcsu
Once focused on working professionals seeking specialized coursework, Extended Education now targets a wide swath of students raising questions about basic fairness and educational equity in the CSU. In fact, in an era of rising tuition, fewer class and course offerings, and overcrowded classes, Extended Education within the CSU is on the verge of supplanting the public side of the university.
It is time the public, and our educational and political leaders understand the impact of Extended Education in our California State University system. It is time we take a closer look at the specifics of the two-tiered tuition system—and the two-tiered opportunities--it creates in the CSU. It is time we examine the effect a system that is modeled on “for-profit” institutions, has on graduation rates, on student debt, and on affordability and accessibility in our public university.
Legislative leaders should ask pertinent questions and require the CSU to provide an annual report on CSU Extended Education courses on a system wide and campus-by-campus basis. We need greater transparency, openness, and oversight as well as information on student demographics, fees, number of courses, and the types of courses associated with Extended Education.
This basic information about Extended Education in the CSU will allow us to uncover hidden truths and improve the conversation about ensuring that the CSU continues to provide affordable, accessible, and quality higher education for millions of more future Californians on the path to prosperity.
David Bradfield is a professor of Music & Media Arts at CSU Dominguez Hills. Kevin Wehr is a professor of Sociology at Sacramento State. They are both members of the California Faculty Association.