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Budget forces CSU enrollment cut despite increase in applications

POSTED November 10, 2009 11:14 p.m.
Even as the California State University system receives more applications than ever before, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed announced Tuesday that ongoing budget cuts will force a 40,000 reduction in students, system-wide, over the next three years.
“Denying students access to higher education is just about one of the worst things you can do in a recession,” said Reed. “The state needs our graduates to enter the workforce and help the state’s economic recovery. But, when your budget is cut so drastically, we are left with little choice but to restrict our enrollment.”
The CSU system endured a $564 million cut in this year’s California state budget. At the same time the CSU system has seen 32 percent more first-time freshmen applying — 145,000 more than a year before. An even larger, 127 percent surge has been seen in transfer student applications, with 88,000 more students applying so far than in the year previous.
The increase in transfer applicants was expected, however, due to last winter’s freeze on new transfer enrollments for the CSU system, implemented in reaction to a $305 million cut last year. Impaction was also enacted, setting higher criteria for enrollment and offering increased preference to students who live nearby CSU campuses.
Those cuts — and $716 million in federal stimulus funds — were not enough last year however, as the CSU system revealed plans to drop enrollment by 10,000 students in the current 2009-2010 school year. Those 10,000 are included in the 40,000 total to be reduced over the next three years.
About 4,000 fewer students are already in the CSU system as of this fall, and the first year total of 10,000 should be hit by year’s end, according to CSU staff.
“By spring, we will reach that total, and project an even larger enrollment decrease for fall 2010,” Reed said. “This reduction in access is the direct result of the almost $600 million that has been cut from our budget. You cannot see a 20 percent drop in revenue and serve the same number of students.”
In addition to the drop in students, Reed says the reduced budget could force cuts to class offerings and the potential reworking of some majors into minors. Student fees may also increase, though a newly proposed “recover and reinvest” budget proposal could prevent that.
The 2010-2011 CSU budget calls for the state to restore $305 million taken in one-time cuts during the 2009-2010 school year, as well as $587 million in “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.” A government buyout of a planned 10 percent student fee increase is included in the $884 million budget increase proposal, which comes in a year where California is expected to endure a $14 billion budget shortfall.
“I know that’s ambitious,” Reed said, “but we need to show the legislature and the governor what the real needs of California citizens are, and to ask them to invest in California’s future.”
Reed said he believes that California currently spends too much on prisons, and that federal health care funding could free up some much-needed dollars for education. The CSU Board of Trustees will review the budget proposal on Nov. 17 before offering the request to the governor and the legislature.
Even if approved, the budget increase will come too late for this year’s hopeful students. The CSU deadline for fall 2010 applications is Nov. 30, well before the state will take any action on budget requests.
Due to the time offset between state budgeting and the CSU school year, any budget adopted by the California legislature would have no effect upon enrollment until the 2011-2012 school year.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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