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Chico State students don’t know where their tuition money is going

Photo credit: Getty Images - Alex Slovan

Photo credit: Getty Images - Alex Slovan

Grayson Boyer

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Although it is impossible to determine where exactly Chico State student tuition money goes, all students deserve a basic understanding of how their money is used.

The following information has been acquired from the 2017/2018 Budget Plan for Chico State, and Chico’s OpenGov.com page.

Let’s start with the basics and dive into some numbers: student tuition is now $7,348 per year, a $308 increase from 2016. Fun fact: tuition was $4,008 per year in 2009.

With 15,250 students enrolled currently, student tuition makes up a little under half of Chico State’s spendable budget, or $98,783,000 total. Add $115,826,232 of state support and $7,113,000 in other revenue to get a total projected budget of $223,054,074.

That’s more money than Chico State spent last year, a 5.5 percent increase from the 2016/2017 budget, or $11,719,607.

Still reading? We’ll take a break from numbers and talk about something that might worry you; it’s impossible to see where student tuition is exactly spent. Because tuition is thrown into a large pot with state money it can’t be tracked whether it was spent on one thing or another.

This is even more worrying when you consider that the 2016/2017 budget had a $350,737 expense for a “Presidential Transaction”. What a presidential transaction is, is difficult to say. There’s nothing in the records describing it.

Which brings up another serious issue; the budget isn’t very specific or comprehensive. The descriptions of funding stop at a basic level. Both the Budget Plan and OpenGov lack detailed spending descriptions. You can see, for example, that $53,578,520 is spent on teaching faculty salaries, but not anything past that.

On one hand, being able to easily look up your professor’s salary is invasive and a little rude. But on the other hand, the only place to easily find the president’s salary is on secondhand transparency websites, where the information unreliable, difficult to source, and sometimes conflicts from website to website.

There’s a very uncomfortable moral and ethical grey area in the level of Chico State’s transparency. Whoever made Chico’s OpenGov page should be commended; it’s great that students have a resource to examine where their money is going, but expenditures are described at a surface level.

To be fair, certain less sensitive expenditures are more clearly defined, such as the cost of waterproofing Miriam Library or this year’s cost of vehicle insurance.

Chico State’s exact spending deserves to be open to the public, it is a tax-funded institution. Obviously, there are limits to this; it’s somewhat sickening that one could be able to look up their professor’s exact salary. There’s a privacy that our teaching professionals, who dedicate their time to our betterment, deserve.

The most salient problem is that most of this information is likely a surprise for any student reader. OpenGov is available for everyone, please go take a look at the website and see how tuition money is spent. It is extremely easy to navigate and uses simple charts and graphs to explain normally tedious information.

Perhaps once more students know what their money is going to, a discussion on how easy it should be to access specific budget information can be had.

Grayson Boyer can be reached at the [email protected] or @gray_boyer on Twitter.

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Chico State students don’t know where their tuition money is going