California State University will accept no new admissions for the spring semester of 2013 – with a few exceptions – as part of a drastic cost-cutting strategy to reduce enrollment by about 16,000 students next spring, officials said Monday.
Another 20,000 to 25,000 qualified students could be barred from attending CSU in the 2013-14 academic year if voters reject a proposed tax measure that hasn’t yet qualified for the November ballot.
Failure of the tax measure would trigger an automatic funding cut of $200 million for CSU under a scenario proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown. That loss would come on top of a $750 million budget hit that CSU already took this year.
The uncertainty has university planners guessing how many students they can afford to admit, and how many employees they can afford to pay.
“It’s made planning very difficult – and it’s made serving our students as they ought to be served very challenging,” said Robert Turnage, CSU’s budget czar, who said CSU’s budget gap stands at half a billion.
The trustees have already raised tuition and mandatory fees for next fall to $7,017 – not counting room, board and books. That’s double what CSU cost in 2007-08, and the trustees meeting this week in Long Beach aren’t planning to raise tuition again for the fall.
“It’s pretty clear that enthusiasm for fee increases is pretty much not there,” Turnage said.
Instead, CSU will close the door to thousands of students – mainly transfers from community colleges – who typically flood CSU’s 23 campuses each spring to finish out their college education.
The exception will be about 500 students who are part of a graduation-track transfer program authorized by the Legislature last year. Those students, currently in community college, will be allowed to transfer into eight CSU campuses only: San Francisco, Cal State East Bay, Sonoma, Channel Islands, Chico, Fullerton, Los Angeles and San Bernardino.
But those students are the proverbial drop in the bucket compared with the 16,000 or so who had expected to proceed with their education at a CSU next spring. San Francisco State University, for example, expects to turn away more than 1,500 students next spring.
CSU officials said they don’t yet know how much they’ll save by canceling spring admissions but say it will be significant because the tuition each student pays is less than the cost to educate them. The exceptions are out-of-state students, who are not subsidized by the state and pay the full cost of their education.
“I’m angry,” said Eric Blanc, an education activist who attends Berkeley City College. “This shuts off the CSU for thousands of working-class students, which is unacceptable in a state that has plenty of wealth.”
Blanc, like many students, views the situation from an Occupy perspective and called it an attack by the “1 percent.” “Students shouldn’t be paying for the economic crisis in our state,” he said.
Student leaders agreed. They said CSU’s decision puts additional pressure on the state’s overburdened community college system and confounds the lives of young people trying to move forward in life.
“The hold on enrollment is unfair to the thousands of students who now must wait on the outcome of an election to find out if they will be attending a CSU,” said George Escutia Jr., a student at Norco College in Riverside County who serves on the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.
Although CSU officials don’t know yet if they will reject the additional 20,000 or more students for the 2013-14 school year, they said Monday that all admissions decisions will be frozen, pending the outcome of the November election. The admissions process for the following fall begins in October.
The tax proposal most likely to qualify for the ballot is a combination of what had been called the Millionaires Tax, backed by labor unions and students, and a competing plan by Brown.
The combination would raise the sales tax by a quarter cent, expiring after four years. Personal income tax would rise for people earning at least $250,000, depending on whether they are single or a couple. The more they earn, the more they would pay, up to a 3 percentage-point increase, all expiring after seven years.
State finance officials estimate the tax measure would bring in about $9 billion into the state’s general fund the first year, and $7.1 billion in each succeeding year.
If the measure failed, CSU’s enrollment of about 417,000 could drop to about 380,000 students by fall 2013.
One side effect of serving fewer students would be the need for layoffs and allowing positions to go unfilled.
“That’s part of the discussion,” said Mike Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesman, who said the university is looking at “reducing employees at all levels,” from staff to faculty to administrators.
“It’s horrific,” said Kim Geron, vice president of the California Faculty Association, who remembers the last time spring enrollment was canceled, two years ago. He said some people lost not only their health benefits, but their homes.