Compared to some other public universities nationally, California State University offers some of the lowest tuition and fees to out-of-state undergraduate students, according to an annual report by the 23-campus system.

Tuition and fees for out-of-state students averages $19,243 this year, about $26 more than last year. But compared to 15 other national public universities such as Arizona State, Rutgers, Georgia State, and the University of Nevada at Reno, CSU has the second-lowest tuition and fees for out-of-state students.

Only Cleveland State University charged less at $15,952, according to the report.

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro announced Tuesday, during a meeting of the Board of Trustees, that tuition for in-state residents would remain flat at $5,742 for the 2021-22 academic year.

But some CSU trustees feel the system may be undervaluing its programs to out-of-state students and want to study if some campuses should be charging these students more in tuition. Of its more than 432,000 undergraduates, CSU enrolled nearly 18,800 of them from out of the state this past fall.

“We’re leaving so much money on the table,” Trustee Jack McGrory said, during the board’s meeting Tuesday. “I get we’re protecting resident students, but … you wouldn’t run a business like this.”

McGrory said he understands that for some campuses raising out-of-state tuition would hurt them, but for others like Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which is popular outside the state, “It’s fiscally insane to keep them non-competitive,” he said.

The San Luis Obispo campus is already in a pilot program that is studying gradual tuition increases to out-of-state students to see the effects on enrollment. Tuition and fees for out-of-state students since 2018 at that campus have increased from $21,951 to $25,971 this year. The total cost of attendance, which includes housing, books and transportation, is $44,826 this year.

Steve Relyea, CSU’s vice chancellor and chief financial officer, said that the pilot program will help inform the system on what price point keeps the campuses attractive to out-of-state residents.

“If it is successful we could expand to other campuses, but do it differentially,” he said. “We wouldn’t propose a cookie-cutter single rate, because many campuses would find we could easily wipe out that cohort of students.”

Despite CSU’s relatively low tuition, Student Trustee Maryana Khames said there are other expenses the board should take into consideration besides tuition.

“I don’t think we can definitely say all out-of-state students should be paying more,” Khames said. “Although our tuition compared to a lot of other state universities outside California look different, and we’re grateful, the cost of living in California is also extremely different from other states.”

Story originally published by EdSource.

Ashley A. Smith, EdSource