CSU Board of Trustees discuss looming budget cuts

The California State University system’s Board of Trustees met yesterday to discuss the best course of action in coping with a potential $1 billion cut to its budget for the 2011-12 academic year.

In addition, $50 million in mandatory costs, mainly related to employee health care and energy, must be factored in and will be met with a 10 percent tuition increase, a 10,000-student drop in funded enrollment and a cut to personnel.

“These are the kinds of costs where even if the budget increases, they stay the same,” said CSU spokesman Erik Fallis. “For example, just because a school gets more money, it doesn’t change the electric bill. They are critical to keep the university functioning. The CSU does not control these costs.”

The CSU budget office calculates the approximate mandatory costs. The actual amount is set by external factors such as the state.

CSU campuses statewide are being asked to reduce their budgets by $281 million.

“We are doing everything we can, and that includes not serving more students than we can provide a quality education to,” Fallis said.

Gov. Jerry Brown originally proposed a $500 million cut to the CSU system in his budget. If his proposed tax extension does not pass in July’s special election, the cuts will reach $1 billion.

“We have been exploring a variety of cost-saving options for more than a year now, and will implement a series of measures that will allow us to operate within this austere budget,” said University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin. “Fourteen cost-savings efforts are already underway, and our efforts to find and implement more savings will continue.”

The legislative analyst’s office has already proposed a series of solutions if the system is cut by $1 billion.

This will include a 5 percent reduction in allotted enrollment, which would reduce the number of students served by 20,000; a 10 percent tuition increase on top of the 15 percent fee increase already in place for fall 2011, which will generate $120 million; and a 5 percent faculty and staff decrease, which will save $158 million if put in place immediately.

Even with these proposals, the CSU system would still face a $162 million shortfall.

Ramon Castellblanch, president of SF State’s California Faculty Association, said there are funds being handled that are not being made public.

“The CFA is urging everyone to consider both non-academic as well as academic funds,” Castellblanch said. “We want to use the reserves to the extent feasible. We want to see more accountability with the auxiliary funds so we know what’s going on.”

He anticipates that many students will be set back if faculty is cut, as fewer classes will be offered and class sizes will grow.

“It’s a problem for quality education,” he said. “A lot of students are going to get hung up if this is going to require a cut in faculty. It will create a serious problem for students.”

Levels of funding are currently where they were in 1999-2000, even though the system now serves 70,000 more students.

A $1 billion cut would drop funding to $1.79 million, which is below the level of the 1997-98 academic year when there were 100,000 less students.

Students looking to attend a CSU in the fall are encouraged to apply to several schools at a time in order to increase chances of admission.

“The CSU’s preference is to admit all who are qualified,” Fallis said. “We still want to provide a level of access to students.”

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