Following Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of a final budget that cuts state funding for the California State University by $650 million for 2011-12, the CSU Board of Trustees took action to increase tuition by an additional 12 percent — or $196 per quarter for full-time undergraduates — effective in the fall. Previously, university officials had indicated if the system was cut beyond the initial $500 million reduction adopted by the Legislature in March, it would be necessary to return to the board in July for tuition action. In addition, a 10 percent or $148 per quarter tuition increase for fall had already been approved by trustees last November. The annual tuition fee for full-time undergraduates will rise to $5,472.
“The enormous reduction to our state funding has left us with no other choice if we are to maintain quality and access to the CSU,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “We will focus on serving our current students by offering as many classes and course sections as possible. We will also be able to open enrollment for the spring 2012 term, which is critical for our community college transfer students.”
Cal Poly Pomona President Michael Ortiz said the tuition fee increase is only the latest necessary response to the dwindling support for higher education in California.
“Students have been experiencing the outcome of state budget cuts for many years,” Ortiz said. “Since my arrival in 2003, we have seen a continuing drop in public support, which has certainly impacted academic and student programs, as well as the scholarly work of our faculty. The campus has done an extraordinary job of overcoming the challenges created by the reduced resources.”
The increase in tuition fees addresses only part of the shortfall, Ortiz said. He pointed to several actions the university has taken in recent years to live within its means.
“The state budget crisis has forced the university to become extremely prudent in its spending practices, so as to best protect students and personnel through these extremely difficult times,” Ortiz said. “We have slashed operational expenses, reduced course sections, kept many vacated positions unfilled, and restricted travel and faculty scholarship opportunities. None of this is easy, but it is necessary.”
One-third of the revenue from the tuition increase will be allocated for financial aid, and an estimated 170,000 students — almost half of all CSU undergraduates — will be fully covered for the tuition increase thanks to this provision and other grants and fee waivers. In addition, many students and families not fully covered by financial aid will benefit from federal tax credits available for family incomes of up to $180,000. Since 2007, total yearly financial aid to CSU students has increased by almost $800 million.
Measures the CSU has already taken to address the initial $500 million cut include reducing enrollment by approximately 10,000 students, and applying an estimated $146 million from tuition increases already approved for fall 2011 to help offset the budget reduction. In addition, campus budgets were reduced by a combined $281 million, and the Chancellor’s office was cut by $10.8 million, or 14 percent. Since the state’s fiscal crisis began in 2008, the CSU has reduced the number of employees by 4,125 or 8.8 percent.
The CSU faces an additional midyear cut of $100 million if state revenue forecasts are not met, reducing CSU state funding to $2 billion. That would represent a 27 percent year-to-year reduction in state support. University officials said they would have to review options further should the CSU’s budget be reduced mid-year.
The $2.1 billion in state funding allocated to the CSU in the 2011-12 budget will be the lowest level of state support the system has received since the 1998-99 fiscal year, but the university currently serves an additional 72,000 students. If the system is cut by an additional $100 million, state support would be at its lowest level since 1997-98, with the system serving an additional 90,000 students compared to that year.
An improved economic climate will help the state dig itself out of its budget hole, but students and their parents should not stand on the sidelines waiting for things to improve, Ortiz said. Political engagement is necessary.
“Recognize your responsibilities as citizens of this state. The people elected to office in Sacramento ultimately decide the amount of public support given to higher education,” Ortiz said. “By the time funding reaches the Chancellor’s Office or even the individual campuses, the cards have already been dealt. If Californians want change, go to the source. Let our state representatives know that our votes will depend on how they support public higher education.”