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4 Cal State Campuses Draw Fire for Closing Doors to New Students


Student and teacher representatives on Wednesday lamented a decision by four California State University campuses to refuse undergraduate applications for their spring or winter terms, saying it would create a logjam in the state's higher education system and force thousands of people to put their educational plans on hold.

The actions mark the first time so many colleges within the 20-campus system have opted to not accept applications for winter or spring courses, said Cal State spokeswoman Colleen Bentley-Adler. As a result, approximately 15,000 students--most of them transfers from community colleges--will have to delay enrollment at those campuses.

The four campuses are Cal Poly Pomona, San Jose State, Sonoma State and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Cal State Fullerton has yet to decide whether to refuse all undergraduate applicants for the spring semester of 1993.

"When the state has a budget, and when it becomes clear how Fullerton figures in that budget, then we'll be able to make that decision," said James Blackburn, Fullerton's director of admissions and records. "But it would be nice if we could do that fairly soon, because the application cycle for the spring semester begin on Aug. 1."

Student and faculty groups said they understood the crisis that the Cal State system faces as the state, battling a multibillion-dollar shortfall, threatens to cut up to $250 million in state college funding. But they voiced concerns that the problem is being solved at the expense of students.

"It's unfortunate some of the larger campuses have had to close access to students," said Bob Gurian, legislative advocate for the California Faculty Assn., which represents many of Cal State's tenured instructors. But, he added, "the universities took the responsible position. I'm not sure anything else could have been done."

Jeff Chang, legislative director of the California State Students Assn., disagreed. "What this decision does essentially is shut the doors on hundreds of students," he said. Though budget difficulties are partly responsible, Chang said, "The administrators have decided time and again to lay off faculty and punish students, before they'll take a salary reduction for themselves or look at pools of money within the Cal State University system that would minimize the effects of state reductions."

San Jose and Sonoma will not take applications for their spring semester next year, officials said. Cal Poly Pomona, previously scheduled to begin winter enrollment in June, will admit no students for that quarter and will accept only about 100 applications in the hotel and restaurant management field for its spring quarter. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo accepted no undergraduate applications for next spring.

Normally, applications for winter and spring courses are accepted through the summer and into the fall term, according to Cal State officials.

"It can all be attributed to the budget," Bentley-Adler said. In case the state goes through with an 8% cut in the system's funding, she said, Cal State universities are preparing to lay off 2,200 people, 1,345 of whom would be faculty members. "If you take that number away, that's thousands of classes that won't be available, and we don't want to enroll students if we don't have the classes for them."

The four campuses stand to lose millions of dollars in student fees by limiting their enrollment, according to officials, but the brunt of the burden may be felt by the state's 107 community colleges.

"The hardest hit will be . . . students prepared to transfer who will be cut off from making that move," said Ann Reed, spokeswoman for the California Community Colleges.

The layoffs and class cuts that have resulted from the state's fiscal crisis have had a domino effect on California's public colleges, with students who cannot get Cal State classes turning to community colleges, which increases crowding at the two-year schools. Last school year, the Cal State system lost 7,000 of its 369,000 students because they were unable to get into their required classes, Bentley-Adler said.

This school year, she said students "may have to stay at a community college a little bit longer," or move to another part of the state to attend a Cal State campus that is still admitting new students this year. "At this point we don't have a choice because the budget crisis has really hit the system very hard."

At Cal State Fullerton, Blackburn said, they are still accepting undergraduate applications for the fall semester in the departments of engineering and computer science, dance and nursing. A variety of master's degree programs also are open for the fall semester.

After word surfaced this week of plans to limit applications at other campuses, more than 100 anxious students called the university's admissions office, demanding to know what Fullerton would do, Blackburn said.

At the moment, the university plans to accept some applications for the spring semester. But if state support drops below anticipated cuts of $9 million, that may change, he said.

As for the fall semester, Blackburn said it is too soon to tell how many full-time equivalent students will actually enroll. Last year, the university had a decrease of about 5% in the number of students taking the equivalent of 12 course units. But the actual head count stayed at about 25,000 students, about the same as the previous year.

Blackburn said he expects little change in that head count this fall.

Times staff writer Kristina Lindgren contributed to this report.

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