CSU East Bay might not limit admission

  • November 14, 2008

By Lisa M. Krieger, Kristofer Noceda and Theresa Harrington
Bay Area News Group

High school seniors looking next year to attend a college in the California State University system will likely have a better shot at getting into Cal State East Bay than other CSU campuses - some of which may be forced to turn away eligible freshmen for the first time.

Officials at Cal State East Bay in Hayward expect their admission guidelines to remain untouched by a cost-cutting proposal by Chancellor Charles Reed, who will tell the Cal State's board of trustees next week that a bleak budget means the university system is no longer able to accept everyone into next fall's freshman class.

Although more students would mean more tuition for campuses, inadequate funding from the state - because of expected cuts in education funding - would make it difficult to keep up facilities and programs for large populations of students.

If Reed's proposals are enacted, schools will give priority to freshmen in their "service areas" - meaning San Jose State, for example, would admit Santa Clara County residents first, and outside students would go on a waiting list.

News of Reed's proposals comes less than three weeks before the Nov. 30 application deadline at most campuses. The proposed changes would increase competition for college seats at a time when universities are facing their largest applicant pool in recent history.

However, the growing Cal State East Bay - with campuses in Hayward, Oakland and Concord - is not overenrolled like other CSU campuses, and will accept any student as long as they meet admission standards, officials said.

"We won't have a problem because we admit students based on our published criteria," said India Christman, executive director of enrollment development and communications at Cal State East Bay. "So if you meet our criteria and get in an application on time, then there's a very high likelihood that you will be admitted."

Students from Alameda and Contra Costa counties made up 70 percent of last year's enrollment at Cal State East Bay, Christman said.

"Cal State East Bay currently does not need to use a wait-list approach to manage our applicant pool, and I do not foresee we will need to move in this direction for fall 2009," she said.

The university is also the only Bay Area campus in the Cal State system accepting freshman applications past Nov. 30. The school has a March 1 deadline for next fall's semester..

Cal State East Bay usually accepts applications for the fall until Aug. 31, but moved the deadline up last year and again this year to help limit enrollment growth that may not be funded under the governor's spending plan.

"We're seeing huge growth," Christman said. "But, we're always looking to grow our enrollment. Our application window is our management (tool). San Jose State is closing (applications) Nov. 30 because they have a lot of applicants. Cal State East Bay is happy to have a little bit more."

Talking points

CSU trustees will discuss Reed's proposal Wednesday in Long Beach. Reed does not need the board's approval to move forward; rather, he is seeking members' opinions. In a presentation prepared for the meeting, Reed said he would reverse course only if the state Legislature boosts funding to the 23-campus university system, the largest in the nation.

If enacted, the proposal breaks the university's 48-year pledge to accept all students who graduate in the top third of their class. Its motto is "Access to Excellence." The University of California faced a similar crisis in 2004, when it deferred 7,600 eligible students because of budget cutbacks.

Reed argues that access must be "authentic access" - that is, campuses must have enough money to provide "excellence." The California State Education code states that Cal State's open policy depends upon adequate funding.

And families' financial hardships are predicted to move students from private to public education.

Obvious target

But the state university system is one of the few remaining "discretionary" items in the California state budget, so it has become a target in Sacramento's political struggle to close a series of budget gaps.

Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced midyear funding cuts of $66.3 million to Cal State. About $31 million was cut last summer. It is anticipated that the funding target for 2009-2010 will remain at this year's level, with no increases for growing enrollment.

Many students see college as their chance to leave home, and giving enrollment priority to local students could eliminate their chances at San Diego State's beaches or San Francisco State's film program.

Cheryl Long, college and career adviser at Clayton Valley High in Concord, said 42 percent of the school's graduating seniors went onto four-year colleges last year, but less than 10 percent of them chose Cal State East Bay. She said restrictions based on residence would definitely concern seniors who want to attend other Cal State campuses.

"I have a ton of kids applying to San Francisco State this year," Long said. "But (interest in) Cal State East Bay does seem up. With the economy, it does seem more convenient."

Some parents said they hoped the changes would work in their favor.

Redwood City's Ashleigh Guich wasn't accepted at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo as a freshman - but last year moved to the central coast town to take classes at Cuesta Community College, and plans to reapply as a local resident.

"Maybe she'll have a better chance," said her mother, Shirley Guich. "It could work better for her."

In addition to local students, admission would also be guaranteed to nonlocal military veterans and graduates of any of California's community colleges.

Cal State campuses will consider out-of-county applicants who were previously enrolled, if they left in good standing. It might also consider those seeking a degree not offered elsewhere; San Diego, for instance, offers marine biology; Humboldt is known for its wildlife management.

Trickle-down effect

Lowest priority would be given to non-California students, including international students. No one would be admitted who is seeking a second bachelor's degree, unless that degree is in engineering or nursing.

"There's a trickle-down effect," said Julie Ball, college counselor for Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton. "Because of the economy, fewer people can afford the privates, so will apply to UCs. Those who might have considered the UCs will apply to the CSUs."

Many students who planned to attend the Cal State schools may instead aim for community colleges, agreed Martha Kanter, chancellor of Foothill-DeAnza Community College District.

But the community colleges are also facing enrollment caps, she said.

"We're in the same boat," Kanter said. "We're cutting back as well."

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