Isn’t the cost of classes supposed to be covered by tuition?

Katy Murphy of Willits News reports.

California State University’s big hidden fee

California State University campuses are charging students huge fees for something their tuition is supposed to cover — classes.

In the past five years, some schools have shifted classes that were covered by tuition to special sessions, where single courses can cost more than $1,000 each, on top of a student’s annual tuition of about $5,500.

“It is hard, but it was a choice I had to make if I wanted to graduate on time,” said Laura Montes, an accounting major at San Jose State who paid $1,050 extra for a summer writing course that was overbooked during the regular school year.

Between 2007 and 2012, San Jose State alone cut back regular class offerings for 281 courses while adding more expensive versions funded almost entirely by student fees, according to a critical study of three campuses by California’s state auditor.

CSU Long Beach cut access to 398 courses and CSU Sacramento cut back 177 courses as they increased special sessions of the same classes, the audit revealed.

While the audit did not examine other schools, enrollment figures show a dramatic expansion of special session courses across the system.

CSU East Bay is offering special sessions this summer, at $724 a course — much less than San Jose State.

Decades ago, Cal State created its “extended education programs,” which offer the special classes, for job training and enrichment — not for full-time college students. But by last summer, more than 57,000 college students took the special courses — 17 times the number who took them in 2008.

What’s more, San Jose State and other campuses socked away surpluses from the courses. San Jose State’s reserve once reached $28 million, more than twice its CSU limit. Similar programs at CSU Sacramento and CSU Long Beach had reserves of nearly $11 million each in 2012, according to the audit.

“Extended education has become a cash cow for local campuses,” said Susan Meisenhelder, a professor emeritus at CSU San Bernardino and a former president of the California Faculty Association. “It’s pushed with all this warm and fuzzy access rhetoric, but it’s really to generate revenue.”