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CSU Students Stand Behind Employees And Classes Facing Cuts

Susan Shimotsu |
January 27, 2011 | 12:18 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Gov. Jerry Brown's plans for a balanced budget hits CSU hard. (Creative Commons)
Gov. Jerry Brown's plans for a balanced budget hits CSU hard. (Creative Commons)

The California State University Board of Trustees concluded its meetings Wednesday with a $500 million budget cut looming ahead, making students wonder how much more they will have to give up with class reductions and furloughs already in place.

In the short time since Gov. Jerry Brown took office, he has announced plans to balance California’s $26.4 billion deficit, which includes slashing $500 million each from the UC and CSU systems. Overall, Brown hopes to cut $12.5 billion of spending, generate $12 billion of new revenues and possibly borrow $1.9 billion from special funds. 

"The worst part about losing this funding across the CSU is that California is getting further and further away from the Master Plan for Higher Education," said CSU, Long Beach student Steven Thomas, of Sacramento, Calif. "Everyone in California should have to opportunity to go to college and the steep cut in the CSU budget will result in denied admission to Californians that want to go to college."

The board held a two-day meeting this week in Long Beach to discuss how to tackle the shortfall.

“[Gov. Brown] finds himself in the unenviable position of inheriting this situation,” Robert Turnage, assistant vice chancellor for budget, said. “He quickly concluded that the only way forward for the state was to finally tackle this imbalance and trying to resolve it. The state truly is running out of gimmicks… in terms of being able to borrow externally.” 

Under Brown’s plan, the total amount of state funds the CSU will get is $2.3 billion, the lowest since 1999. However, Turnage pointed out that enrollment has increased by 70,000 students during that time, which results in about a $4,000 drop in purchasing power per student.

The finance committee announced it is currently meeting with executive leaders to generate strategies to cope with the loss. 

Meanwhile, CSU students can only wait to see what happens – or rather what disappears – next. Tuition was already raised by 15 percent last November, making it difficult to take the maximum amount of classes.

“Each semester, students struggle to be allowed entrance into the classes they need to fulfill their major,” said Taryn Falcetti, a junior at CSULB. “Because of the money being lost in the CSU system, the universities cannot afford to provide salary for the adequate amount of staff or classes students need to fulfill their full time education. Students are graduating in five or six years instead of the normal four.”

Chancellor Charles Reed said at the meeting the university will attempt to resolve the loss of funds by cutting employee salaries instead of increasing tuition next year.

“It’s not going to be pretty,” Reed said. “About 84 percent of our budget is tied up into salaries and benefits, so we’re going to have to downsize the CSU and so that’s going to be the most painful part.”

While tuition won’t be increased for the sake of the new budget slash, the board did approve a 10 percent increase in doctorate tuition for 2011-12.

Other CSULB students also expressed a desire for belt-tightening in areas on and around campus to help bridge the gap, especially before employee cuts.

“The main area where cuts should come first is the transportation within the school,” said Terri Nour, another junior from Orange, Calif. “CSUs have a shuttle system which travels approximately 300 miles per day, consuming a large portion of the budget for operation including maintenance and gas. Whereas limiting the sections of classes and having few teachers per section should come last. It’s creating a conflict where students are unable to obtain the units needed to graduate.”

“The cuts should probably come from campus improvements, such as building new gyms or rec centers, or cutting the grass and stuff,” said Jesus Dacuma, a senior from Lakewood, Calif. “What should definitely stay is the money in the professors’ salary.”

As the CSU continues to develop plans to alter its spending habits, many students are preparing for unexpected and larger hikes.

“I have already had to make some lifestyle changes in order to keep up with tuition hikes,” said Kimmie Krymer, a junior from Oceanside, Calif. “Renting textbooks, using public transportation instead of filling up my tank with gas, working 30 hours a week, and cutting back on my frivolous spending have all aided in saving me some cash to put towards tuition.”

“As a self-supported student, another tuition increase will require me to work more and take less classes each semester,” Thomas said. “This is prolonging my degree, requiring me to spend more time in school, which costs California more tax money, and prolonging my pursuit of a career as a business professional.”

Reach reporter Susan Shimotsu here.

Follow her on Twitter: @susanfromtx.



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