California’s budget cuts hit bare bones

Pick a side

MaryAnne Shults

Students planning to attend a California State University campus in the fall may find the door to their future slammed in their face when their application is rejected due to issues caused by the state’s financial crisis.

CSU officials have declared a system-wide impaction and may opt to decline admission to about 10,000 fewer students for the fall 2009 term.

Local area freshman and upper division community college transfer students have priority for admission. “If state funding is adequate, the CSU is required to accept all first-time freshman in the upper one-third of the state’s high school graduates and all upper division transfer students who earn a 2.0 in at least 60 transferable semester units,” according to the CSU’s Web site’s questions and answers relative to the budget issues.

“At Saddleback, we’re not cutting classes, so our students should be able to get the classes they need. For students transferring in fall 2009, it’s important for them to do what they need to in order to complete their requirements for transfer and make a successful transition to the four-year university,” said Sarah Kobata, representing the college’s Transfer Center. “If transferring to a CSU, this means completing transferable English, math, critical thinking and speech, by the end of the spring semester, not the summer.”

California mid-year budget cuts of $2.6 billion proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November will deeply affect all three sectors of state-funded higher education systems who must now rethink their own financial plans for the upcoming year.

For both the CSU and the University of California systems, this required enrollment caps, and possible increases in student fees. In turn, this will also trickle down to affect the state’s community college system.

The mid-year budget proposal includes $332.2 million in proposed cuts to the community colleges.

This decision comes at a time when economists are predicting a recession and those out of work are opting to return to higher education for further job training or a career change. According to a statement by the state’s Community College’s Chancellor Diane Woodruff, colleges are experiencing a 10.2 percent increase in enrollment which is about 100,000 more students beyond the level of what the state currently funds.

“The South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees, Chancellor Mathur, and I are concerned about the impact of the recession to our community colleges,” said Saddleback College President Tod Burnett. “While south Orange County will fare better than other parts of the state and country, we are expecting an influx of additional students seeking to expand their training and skills. We’ll do everything we can to offer the needed academic and career or technical education courses to accommodate them.”

The governor has proposed further budget cuts of $66.3 million to the CSU 2008-09 budget. This cut comes on top of a recent one-time $31.3 million reduction in the budget signed in September, according to CSU officials.

“Because the state is unable to provide the resources needed to fully fund demand, we are forced to make this difficult decision,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. With the proposed cuts, they would be unable to provide adequate instruction or provide necessary services to students, he said.

There are currently about 450,000 students within the 23-campus CSU system. Nearly 50,000 applications were received electronically for fall 2009, officials said. The number of applications was up 21 percent from the same time last year.

The report showed that 15,337, or 39 percent, of those applications were from upper division transfer students.

The 2008-09 undergraduate fee of $3,048 combined with the current average $749 in campus-based fees, make the CSU total undergraduate academic fee $3,797.

If requested state funding is not adequate, the trustees will have to decide if an increase is necessary.

In turn, the UC Board of Regents followed suit when officials said they too would be forced to limit undergraduate enrollment if the governor’s proposed additional $65.5 million mid-year funding cut passes. Nevertheless, no specific numbers were decided.

“Freeze is what we have to do, not curtail,” Regent George Marcus, who said there was a need for stronger language in talking about enrollment. “We have to protect the dream. The reason young people want to come here is the quality of education,” Marcus told UCLA’s Daily Bruin.

Democrats, who control the state legislature, support the governor’s proposal, according to Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, while the minority GOP lawmakers do not formally show support for the planned spending cuts. Although the 39 newly elected legislators were recently sworn in, neither party’s opinions were swayed during a special session called by the governor.

Bursting with fresh vigor and innovative ideas, 11 new senators and 28 new Assembly members’ first task will be to face the grim task of having to balance a state budget that experts predict will reach $28 billion within about 18 months.

Saddleback’s Transfer Center offers the following tips to expedite one’s application process: maintaining a competitive GPA, continuing to work on and completing general education and major preparation courses, and paying attention to deadlines and communication from the four-year universities.
“With all of the changes going on within the CSU/UC systems, it’s important for students to come in and see a counselor at least once a semester; we have actually already seen the impacts of these changes/concerns this current fall semester,” said Kobata. “We encourage students to continue to work with us, the four-year schools, and to be as prepared as possible! Again we’re not cutting classes here at Saddleback, so we are able to meet the needs of our students.”

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