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Seeking solutions: CSU campuses are working to save the 'California Dream'

  • December 2, 2009

During the recent enrollment cycle for the next academic year, Cal State East Bay recorded the largest increase in freshman applications of any of the 23 CSU campuses, and is in the top five for transfer students. Reductions in services for students and the institution of furloughs for staff and faculty have come at a time when Cal State East Bay is experiencing unprecedented interest among potential students.

Although CSUEB is at a point in its history where it has achieved a reputation as a first choice institution of distinction, at the same time we are constrained by the state’s economic downturn.

I am proud that we’ve become a major “destination campus,” and I know we are undaunted by the challenges ahead.  We’re watching the application numbers closely. Nov. 30 was a cut-off date for applications to many CSU campuses for the Fall 2010 quarter, and we’ll stop accepting them after we reach a key target number that is fast approaching.

There is tremendous enthusiasm and interest in our region about Cal State East Bay. We had the privilege recently to make a short presentation at a Fremont Unified School District Board of Education meeting. I was very encouraged by the warm reception we received and their recognition of our achievements over the past several years.  

Of course, this extraordinary interest in our “university of possibilities” comes during the continuing fiscal crisis for California. Last month, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a budget proposal for 2010-11 that asked the state to restore one-time cuts imposed in the current year totaling $305 million and another $296 million for mandatory cost and compensation increases and improvements in student services and instruction.

This amount includes an estimated $111 million needed to “buy out” a 10 percent student fee increase and calls for $283 million to fund collective bargaining agreements for the past two years.

I think it is imperative that we communicate with our legislators and the public regarding our challenges. State support for the CSU has fallen by $625 million over the last two years and Cal State East Bay, along with the 22 other campuses, has had to compensate by reducing enrollment, increasing student fees, cutting services, and furloughing employees.

As CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said, “The California Dream of a higher education is disappearing. We are grappling with the results of massive budget cuts and, unfortunately, have been faced with little choice but to raise student fees and decrease enrollment.”

In order to meet budget reductions, CSU campuses will reduce enrollment by 40,000 by next fall, including about 1,100 at CSUEB. This is despite the fact that this fall CSU campuses have already received more than 100,000 applications – a record.

We know from a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California that the public values higher education, but as Chancellor Reed pointed out, “you cannot continue to operate the largest public university system in the country and offer students a quality education when your budget is cut by 20 percent in one year.”

The CSU trustees adopted a proposed budget aimed at “recovering and reinvesting” funding in the system by the state. We can hope that our state’s leaders recognize the wisdom of that approach, but given that California’s economy is not yet showing signs of rebounding, we must continue to address the crisis at hand. I continue to meet regularly with individuals and committees addressing our budget situation and appreciate the comments and suggestions that have come in as a result of this monthly column in The View. I value the comments and appreciate the thoughtful suggestions.

As president, I am proud and fortunate to work with such dedicated faculty, staff, students, and administrators. Our work together to develop transformative solutions will continue to guide Cal State East Bay through this period of crisis and position us to be even stronger in the future.

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