California State University System Plans for 10 Percent Enrollment Reductions

California State University System Plans for 10 Percent Enrollment Reductions

California is quickly losing its once-brilliant luster for its commitment to
higher education with the announcement that the
California State University (CSU) system plans to cut student enrollment by
almost 10 percent in the face of a $564 million
shortfall next fiscal year. This means 40,000 California students over a three-year
period must look elsewhere for their higher
education.

Meanwhile, applications to CSU by secondary and community college transfer
students this fall have risen off the charts.

CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed, in a conference call Tuesday, said the system
is planning to slash planned enrollments even further
at the 23-campus system, less than six months after closing student applications
for the 2010 winter/spring semesters. Decrying the
need for such action, Reed said, “Denying student access to the California
State University is just about the worst thing that (we)
can do. But we have to provide quality higher education to the students, and
we cannot educate more students with $564 million
less.”

Last year, CSU trustees declared a “systemwide impaction” program
resulting in a 10,000 enrollment reduction in 2009-2010.
Additionally, to balance its budget, CSU instituted employee furloughs, student
fee increases and campus-based cuts in service and
programs.

October marked the beginning of the fall 2010 semester application period and
since that time CSU has received more than 266,000
applications, a 53 percent jump over last year. Community college transfer students,
which represent about one third of the total
applications, have shown a 127 percent increase. Increases in applications were
due in part, Reed explained, to a successful
communications outreach campaign that included the expanded use of social media
outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook to inform
parents and high school counselors about the planned reductions.

“Impaction” also meant applicants are less likely to be accepted
by individual campuses if they fail to meet all application
requisites or miss the November 30 deadline. In addition, campuses are now encouraged
to give priority acceptance to applicants from
their home service area, Reed said. In the past, campuses such as San Diego
State University and CSU, San Luis Obispo attracted
large numbers of students from all over the state, a trend which is now being
discouraged.

Chancellor Reed also provided a preview of the proposed 2010-2011 budget the
CSU will present to its board of trustees next week.
Calling it a “recover and reinvest” budget, CSU is asking the state
to restore funding for one-time cuts imposed in 2009-2010
totaling $305 million, along with an additional $587 million for mandatory cost
increases, enrollment growth, compensation increases
and a restoration of the revenues that would have been part of the Compact funding
for higher education. The total $884 million
increase includes a request for revenue needed for the legislature to “buy
out” a 10 percent student fee increase.

This past summer, the CSU board had approved changes to state regulations that
allowed management and nonrepresented employees to be
furloughed two days per month. Approximately 85 percent of CSU’s budget consists
of employee salaries and benefits. Furloughs were
seen as a way to protect the maximum number of jobs while generating essential
salary savings.

California State University, the largest public, post-secondary system in the
country, isn’t alone in dealing with these cutbacks.
The University of California experienced similar declines from the state’s general
fund contributions.

In earlier times in the Golden State’s history, the legislature may have been
more empathetic to restoring the budgets of its higher
education stakeholders. But the state’s recent Houdini escape from fiscal peril
is expected to make a repeat appearance next
January. Earlier this week, the governor told the Fresno Bee editorial board
he is expecting a deficit ranging from $5 billion to $7
billion. When combined with the projected budget gap of $7.4 billion, the state
could start its budget process $12 billion to $14
billion in the hole. This scenario makes funding restorations to the higher
education systems seem even less probable.

CSU students pay some of the lowest fees nationwide. In a comparison of public
state universities tuition/fees for 2008-09, students
at North Carolina State paid 37 percent higher fees; State University of New
York, Albany, attendees shelled out 58 percent more and
Illinois State students forked over more than double what their counterparts
are charged in the California State University system.
In sum, California education remains a relative bargain, despite the increasing
fees and enrollment restrictions.

For those reasons, the California State University system is attempting to
get out in front of the budget issue.

Jeff Bleich, chairman of the CSU Board of Trustees, last week penned an op-ed
column for The Los Angeles Times, in which he stated,
“I need to share my concern – and personal pain – that California is on
the verge of destroying the very system that once made this
state great.” Bleich, a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, said he
felt an obligation to repay the state by living and serving
in various capacities in California.

“So as someone who has lived the California dream, there is nothing more
painful to me than to see this dream dying,” he continued.
“It is being starved to death by a public that thinks any government service
– even public education – is not worth paying for. And
by political leaders who do not lead but instead give in to our worst, shortsighted
instincts.”

The CSU board is expected to vote on the budget at its meeting November 17
and forward the request to the governor and the
legislature.