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Cal State system may raise student fees up to 20% more

The increase would come on top of a 10% hike approved in May. Faculty members bitterly denounce trustees and the chancellor at a special board session called to address fiscal crisis.

July 08, 2009|Gale Holland

In a first concrete look at how California's fiscal crisis may dramatically reshape higher education in the state, California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed said Tuesday that he will ask the university's trustees to approve an additional student fee hike of 15% to 20% for this fall, and enrollment reductions of 32,000 students in the year to follow.

The proposed increase would come on top of a 10% hike approved in May and would bring average yearly undergraduate fees to $4,688 to $4,861. That figure includes additional charges set by each campus, but not the cost of books, transportation or room and board.

The chancellor's announcement, at a special board session called to grapple with a funding shortfall of at least $584 million projected for the Cal State system when the state budget is finally issued, came after Cal State faculty members bitterly denounced the trustees and Reed. The professors said the Cal State leaders had failed to fight hard enough for new taxes or other fiscal measures to forestall precipitous cost-cutting.

"The policy of appeasement has been a failure," California Faculty Assn. President Lillian Taiz told Reed and the board.

Reed said the university system, which starts fall classes in August, was running out of time and options.

"I have been in the public service business for more than 40 years, and never before have I ever seen such a devastating cut," the chancellor said.

Speaking to faculty members who lined up to publicly rail at administrators, Board of Trustees Chairman Jeffrey Bleich said, "If we divide and demonize each other . . . and point fingers and pretend it's someone else's fault, we're not going to advance at all."

Reed said much of the fee hike will be covered by financial aid increases and education tax breaks promised by the Obama administration, but several professors called that assertion "ludicrous."

"What this means is dreams deferred, poverty entrenched and the door to the middle class slammed firmly on poor and working-class people," said Rita Ledesma, a professor at Cal State L.A.

Reed said he would call on presidents of the system's 23 campuses to make further reductions totaling $192 million. He also warned of mass layoffs if the faculty union fails to go along with a separate proposal for a university-wide, two-day-a-month furlough plan designed to eliminate $275 million of the $584-million budget gap.

Two unions representing 21,000 of Cal State's workforce of 47,000 employees have tentatively agreed to either accept or negotiate the furlough proposal. But the faculty association, which represents 23,000 instructors and tenure-track professors, had demanded more information about how the overall deficit would be cut before polling its members.

Enrollment at Cal State, the nation's largest four-year university system, currently stands at about 450,000 students. Administrators plan to slash 2010-11 enrollment by raising admission standards, pushing up application deadlines and limiting admission for some students to their local campuses, officials said.

To spread the reductions throughout the four-year institutions, officials said, the restrictions will apply to transfer students as well as incoming freshmen. The university used similar methods in an attempt to reduce enrollment for the school year just ended by 10,000 students, but managed to bring the number down by only 3,000 to 4,000.

Reed said he will issue final recommendations by July 10, in time for a July 21 vote by the trustees.

"It's going to be a very sad year for California students and their families," said Cal State Fullerton professor Diana Guerin, a member of the university's statewide academic senate.

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gale.holland@latimes.com

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