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Cal State considers drastic plan in case of an 'all-cuts' budget

The university system's 'radical' measures could include a 32% tuition hike in addition to a 10% increase taking effect this fall, and turning away 20,000 qualified applicants in a worst-case scenario.

May 11, 2011|By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times
  • California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed, seen in 2010, says he will make formal recommendations to the board of trustees in July. "Its going to be radical and its going to generate a lot of pain, he says.
California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed, seen in 2010,… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Facing a potential $1-billion reduction in state funding for the coming school year, California State University is considering "radical" measures that could include huge tuition hikes and enrollment reductions, officials said Tuesday.

The actions may be necessary to keep classroom doors open if tax extensions requested by Gov. Jerry Brown are not approved, Chancellor Charles B. Reed told trustees at a meeting in Long Beach.

The state already had approved funding cuts for the next school year of $500 million each for Cal State and the University of California. An additional $500 million may be demanded from each system if the temporary tax extensions are not approved by voters or the Legislature.

Under the contingency plan presented Tuesday, Cal State could be forced to raise tuition for full-time undergraduates by 32% next year, in addition to a 10% increase already approved for fall 2011. The contingency increase would mean an additional $1,566 and bring total annual tuition for undergraduates to $6,450. The total does not include annual campus fees that average $950.

"It's going to be radical and it's going to generate a lot of pain," said Reed, who will make formal recommendations to the governing board in July.

Cal State campuses also may resort to a waiting list for applications for winter and spring 2012 enrollment and hold off admissions decisions until a state budget is finalized.

In the worst-case scenario, 20,000 qualified applicants could be turned away, Reed told trustees.

"An 'all-cuts' budget would mean reducing 36% of our operating costs in one year and I don't know of a business in this country that can take that kind of reduction," the chancellor said.

Reed offered a number of other scenarios that could save $500 million, including closing the 10 smallest of Cal State's 23 campuses, turning away 85,000 students or eliminating financial aid for 100,000 students, all options he rejected for now.

Any of the measures would add to the hurdles that students already face in affording tuition, getting into classes and graduating, said Christopher Chavez, president of the Cal State Student Assn.

"These cuts they see on paper in Sacramento have consequences," said Chavez, 23, a senior political science major at Cal State Long Beach who attended the meeting. "They can't expect to roll our budget back to 1990 levels without doing damage to Cal State."

The bleak forecast only adds to the pain of a system that, along with the state's other public colleges and universities, has had to weather a precipitous drop in state support in recent years, forcing layoffs, enrollment reductions, tuition increases, staff furloughs and other cost-cutting measures. Since 2008, Cal State has reduced its workforce by nearly 9% — more than 4,100 faculty and staff members.

Cal State officials already had planned to enroll 10,000 fewer students this fall and said they would apply $146 million of the 10% fee increase to the budget reduction. The chancellor's office is cutting its costs by 14%, nearly $11 million. But campuses still must absorb $281 million in already approved cuts.

Cal State Fresno President John D. Welty told trustees that his campus is eliminating 80 management and staff positions and will offer 600 to 800 fewer class sections next year. The campus has cut back on maintenance to the point that leaking roofs caused by heavy winter rains may force the closure of several buildings.

Students at Cal State Long Beach face larger classes and reduced services, including psychological counseling, which is backlogged, said President F. King Alexander.

He told trustees that Cal State has cut closer to the bone than any public university system in the nation, noting that, according to federal data, 10 Cal State campuses are among the 20 most efficient large campuses nationwide in terms of spending per student.

His campus has received national recognition for improved graduation rates but those gains may be lost, he said. "All of the things that made us so successful are at stake," Alexander said.

carla.rivera@latimes.com

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