California State University administrators are exploring ways to reduce enrollment by about 5%, or 20,000 students, because of the state budget squeeze.
The envisioned reduction would be the first since the early 1990s at the nation's largest state university system, which has more than 400,000 students.
Cal State officials said Tuesday they are pushing ahead with enrollment-slashing plans, along with other possible spending cutbacks and expected student fee increases. The moves come in response to the budget proposal delivered this month by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration.
For Cal State, the governor's budget demands about $200 million in spending cuts. It calls for the elimination of outreach and related academic assistance programs. Also included is a 10% decrease in freshman enrollment, which would amount to a reduction of about 4,000 students.
At a Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach, leaders of the university system signaled that they hoped to retain the outreach and academic assistance programs and instead absorb the spending cuts largely through reducing enrollment by about 20,000. Officials said they probably would achieve much of the enrollment cut by eliminating classes -- a move that very likely would prompt some students to drop out while others reduce their course loads.
Chancellor Charles B. Reed said the academic assistance and outreach programs have a track record of helping students succeed at the 23 Cal State campuses. He called enrollment reduction "the only way to maintain quality."
CSU officials said they also might want to revise the governor's proposal to impose fee increases of 10% for undergraduate students who are California residents and 40% for in-state graduate students. Officials said they were particularly concerned about the steep increases for teachers taking graduate courses. On the other hand, one Cal State official said administrators might consider a bigger fee increase for undergraduate students as a way to raise financial aid money for the neediest students.
Reed said a comprehensive package of measures to deal with the state spending cuts would be delivered to the Board of Trustees for a possible vote in March.
H.D. Palmer, deputy director for the state Department of Finance and a spokesman for Schwarzenegger, said the administration was open to looking at other ways to achieve the spending cuts. "We'll be happy to work with them on it," he said.
John Travis, president of the California Faculty Assn. and a political science professor at Humboldt State, agreed with CSU administrators that if proposed state spending cutbacks go into effect, the university system might have little recourse but to make severe cutbacks.
"We're caught in the proverbial hard place here," Travis said. "While we have always stood as a union for access for qualified California students, we also are feeling the pressure of the significantly reduced commitment by the state to the California State University.
"If the budget cuts that already have been proposed by the governor go into effect, we simply will not have enough people teaching courses in the CSU to provide for all the students who are qualified to be here," Travis added.