State's budget crunch means enrollment freeze for new Cal State University students

This spring, only a fraction of the usual number of new students will appear on California State University campuses.

All 23 campuses in the system plan to limit admissions for in-state undergraduate and graduate students in the Spring 2013 semester, according to spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp of the CSU Chancellor’s Office. But some exceptions will be granted.

Come January, California residents may seek entry to only certain graduate programs at SF State, while international students and military veterans can apply for any programs, according to the University’s graduate studies website.

Jo Volkert, senior associate vice president of enrollment management at SF State said the main impact the University will see with limited spring enrollment is “fewer new students than a typical spring semester.”

“Normally, we admit about 1,300 transfers in spring and this year I expect to admit no more than 200 (undergraduate transfers),” Volkert said. “Many of those students will just wait to apply for Fall 2013, which could make the number of applicants for Fall 2013 higher than normal.”

Enrollment for spring admissions was also shut down back in 2010, according to Uhlenkamp.

Last year there were 315 nonresident graduate students enrolled throughout the CSU and 1,884 undergrad students enrolled that spring. The spring semester typically has much lower enrollment than the fall, Uhlenkamp said.

Undergraduates can only apply for the Spring 2013 semester at SF State if they have earned their associate degrees, according to the Student Transfer Agreement Reform Act, also known as Senate Bill 1440.

SB 1440, signed into law in 2010, helps to ease the process of community college transfers to CSUs by giving those who have earned their associate degrees priority and capping the number of units they need for their bachelor’s degrees.

Volkert said there is expected to be a bigger decrease in undergrad students than graduate students for this spring.

The CSU Board of Trustees did not create the new policy, but limited the enrollment for the spring semester as a direct result of lack of funding from the state, according to Uhlenkamp.

Back in March, the trustees announced they would reduce the enrollment across the system. This was a reflection of the $750 million cut from last year’s budget, Uhlenkamp said.

“We’ve had to limit that group based on the budget cuts,” he said. “It’s going to be a fairly small population that will be new to the CSU.”

The decline in subsidies from the state, which fund California residents, meant a reduction in the number of students any given CSU could take in.

Uhlenkamp explained that nonresidents are granted entry because they do not require a subsidy from the state, but that all CSUs could have exceptions to the limited enrollment of in-state students.

“I think it’s unfair,” said Kayla Douglas, a 21-year-old health education major. “If you have the grades and you have the determination, you should be able to transfer from a community college to a CSU.”

SF State has its own exceptions for graduate students.

California citizens can apply to a select 12 graduate programs, most of which are focused in special education, but there are no barriers to international students and active U.S. military service members or veterans, according to the University’s graduate website.

California has one of the largest populations of active military personnel with 159,380 stationed in-state, according to America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest partnership organization dedicated to helping youth.

“If they (the CSUs) have capacity, they can admit a California resident. It’s completely at the discretion of the campus,” Uhlenkamp said. “There is no policy regarding nonresident students, but at the same time, the CSU is not actively recruiting those students.”  He added that undergrads will be among the most affected.

The CSU system is the nation’s largest public university system and creates many financial benefits within the state.

According to the CSU’s fact page,  “CSU-related expenditures create $17 billion in economic activity” in addition to sustaining more than 150,000 jobs in the state and returning approximately five times more per dollar than the state invests.

To prevent limited enrollment in the first place, Douglas suggested there should be rules and regulations to ensure money for the CSU system from the state, noting that the lack of money from the state plays a big role as well.

“I can’t necessarily blame the CSU program chancellor. Yes, he hasn’t always had the best interest at heart, I think that sometimes he puts his needs in front of the students, but he doesn’t get the financial backing from the state,” Douglas said.

Vivek Wadhwa, the vice president of academics and innovation at Singularity University who has a strong interest in higher education, said that the limited enrollment will hurt the CSU in the long run.

“But I have a hard time blaming CSU when I know how drastically the state has cut funding,” Wadhwa said. “What would be better is for them to be honest and say that they can’t afford to offer in-state tuition for new applicants in certain fields, so everyone has to pay full tuition.”

He also suggested that CSUs should do fundraising.

“The funds should be for scholarships for in-state students who qualify for admission but can’t afford to pay. I believe that state schools should be giving preference to in-state students—that is their charter.”

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