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Tuition hikes put a ‘squeeze’ on middle class wallets

Local father says more money to colleges means less for the community
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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With tuition increases planned for the coming year in the University of California and California State University systems, some middle class families are feeling a “squeeze” on their budgets. Recently the CSU Board of Trustees voted to approve a 12 percent increase in tuition starting in the fall. This comes after the state’s budget cut $650 million from the CSU budget for the 2011/2012 year, according to the California State University public affairs office. According to the University of California, regents approved a 9.6 percent tuition increase on top of an already approved 8 percent tuition increase starting in the fall after a cut of $650 million from the state. The news is hard for many to swallow, especially after officials approved a raise in pay for some administrators. Auburn residents Jim and Deb Knox have two daughters. Kelsey, 21, is going to be a senior at UC Santa Cruz this coming year, and Jenna, 17, is starting her senior year at Placer High School. Kelsey Knox plans to continue on to graduate school after she graduates. Jenna Knox is interested in several universities, including UC Santa Cruz, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and San Jose State. The Knoxes said while they aren’t complaining about their financial situation because they are able to pay their bills, tuition increases do have an impact on them because they don’t fit in the income requirements for financial aid grants. “I won’t retire as soon,” Jim Knox said. “There are options. It will drain our spendable income down. That’s the big impact of all these increases.” Jim Knox said he and his wife started saving for their daughters’ college educations after they were born, and want them both to experience a four-year institution, even though junior colleges are options. Deb Knox said she wants her daughters to have the dorm experience if they want to. “It’s how you kind of grow up,” she said. “Kelsey obviously has experienced it, and I’m looking forward to Jenna having that experience as well.” Kelsey Knox currently works as a resident assistant in the dorms to help bring in some income, and Jenna Knox said she plans to work during college as well. Jim Knox said he feels residents should have been allowed to vote on whether or not to approve the tax extensions, because the increase in college fees are taking more of a toll than saving some money in eliminating taxes. “So, we saved a little and we lose a lot,” Jim Knox said. “That is the situation a lot of middle income people are in right now.” Jim Knox said the family is now paying $5,000 more in tuition for Kelsey than it did when she was a freshman because of continuing increases, and that is money that is not going back into the Auburn area. “Now we are taking that $5,000, and we are sending it to the regents at the UC system,” Jim Knox said. Jim Knox said he knows of several local families who are experiencing what he is currently. “We have friends who were originally looking for a CSU and now they can’t afford it, so they are going to Sierra College,” he said. Senator Leland Yee (D-Francisco) said Monday he plans to reintroduce legislation that will prohibit pay raises for top UC and CSU administrators, such as university presidents, during tough budget years. The original legislation was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009. Jim Knox said he thinks the legislation is a good idea. “I think the very wealthy need to put a break on their income when people below them are suffering,” he said. Senator Ted Gaines said he hadn’t read Yee’s legislation as of Monday, but he thinks university administrators should not be receiving pay increases when tuition is going up at the same time. Gaines said he thinks four-year universities should also be able to guarantee a four-year education to lessen the impact of tuition costs. “A challenge I have with my two daughters is they are at Sacramento State, and they have not been able to get their classes in a timely manner,” Gaines said. “It seems to me you ought to be able to enter into a contract with a university to graduate in a four year timeline in order to respond to the class requirements obligation.” Craig Yamamoto, director of financial aid at Sacramento State University, said all colleges have seen an increase in financial aid applicants over the last couple of years because of the tough economy. Yamamoto said about 99 percent of applicants are eligible for aid, but it might be in the form of parent or student loans rather than grants. Yamamoto said parents should start planning for their children’s college educations as soon as possible and should consider having them start at junior college before transferring to a university. Deb Knox said the financial help of her daughters’ grandparents has been a great thing. The family might consider a loan in the future, but is going to see how things go for now. “It’s not that dire,” she said. “It is for a whole lot of people. We are fortunate. We are keeping our head above water.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Where to get information on financial aid • Fastweb.com • Finaid.org • Financialaidtips.org Craig Yamamoto, director of financial aid at Sacramento State University, said students should be careful of scams on financial aid websites. “If there is a company that is offering a scholarship, and they are charging a $300 application fee and you are guaranteed you are going to get this money back, that is pretty much bogus,” Yamamoto said.