Publication | September 7, 2023

CSU At All Costs: The Inequitable Burdens of Affording a College Degree

The Cal State Student Association (CSSA) and The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) examine trends in college affordability for California State University (CSU) bachelor’s degree recipients compared to its original analysis published six years ago. This new report finds that in 2021-2022, nearly two in three CSU bachelor’s degree recipients who left college with student loan debt had family incomes no greater than $54,000; and despite decreases in overall borrowing rates, equity gaps persist with racially marginalized students continuing to be more likely to graduate with debt than their white and Asian peers.

As the CSU continues its efforts to strengthen student success, close equity gaps, and increase affordability without relying on student loans or working excessively, we offer recommendations to support its students’ by ensuring that revenue from a tuition increase be used as institutional aid for the lowest income students with flexibility towards covering non-tuition costs, providing greater transparency to the public on how the CSU is using its State University Grant (SUG) funding to cover college costs, and supporting 2024 budget advocacy for Cal Grant Reform. The CSU’s intentionality around closing equity gaps in affordability and success is more important than ever given the chilling effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to end affirmative action nationally, student loan repayments resuming in Fall 2023 after an extended pandemic-induced pause, proposed CSU tuition increases, and rising costs of living.