Budget Concerns Raised at Brown Bag with the Presidents

Budget Concerns Raised at Brown Bag with the Presidents
Students listen to the discussion during Brown Bag with the Presidents.
President Ortiz talks about the state buget.
ASI President Richard Liu invites students to participate the Lobby Corps.

Money, budgets and classes dominated the conversation at the Brown Bag with the Presidents on Oct. 6. The noon event allowed students to raise their concerns and ask questions of university President Michael Ortiz and ASI President Richard Liu.

In his opening remarks, Ortiz shared that state funding has dropped by more than half in the last decade, from $11,075 to $4,669 per student. Although annual CSU student fees have increased from $2,500 to $4,033 in the same time period, a significant gap remains. This year, the university is facing an unprecedented $31 million budget shortfall and has taken some difficult actions, including employee furloughs, layoffs and the elimination of state-supported summer quarter.

“All of us are suffering,” he said. “Students are paying more and getting less. Faculty and staff are working more for less pay.”

The event itself reflected the university's fiscal challenges. In the past, students were served free pizza and drinks. This year, they brought their own lunches.

Ortiz said the comprehensive fundraising campaign, which is in its initial stage, will significantly benefit the university in the long run. Many donors are including Cal Poly Pomona in their wills, so current students may not see the benefits of the campaign right away.

“Last year, even though this is not immediate money, we raised more money than we ever raised,” Ortiz said, referring to the $27.4 million in gifts, pledges and bequests. As designated by the donors, the donations will go toward endowed chairs, scholarships, facility improvements and community outreach services.

Some students expressed interest in organizing a public demonstration or rally in support of higher education and Cal Poly Pomona.

Liu said students, faculty and staff at Cal Poly Pomona are only a small part of the economic crisis in California and nationally. He invited them to join the newly reestablished Lobby Corps, which will visit legislators and other people in positions of power.

Instead of venting at a tent on campus, students should set up their tent on a furlough Friday in front of a legislator's office if they want to be heard, Liu said.

Ortiz did not downplay the seriousness of the budget cuts, acknowledging students' frustrations with fewer courses, fewer class sections, closed offices on staff furlough days and personal financial challenges.

“We're having to do things we don't want to. But we're trying to stop the bleeding before we can move forward,” he said.

Faculty, department chairs, deans and advisors are being flexible in helping students get the classes they need to graduate or finding alternatives. The financial aid office is also working hard to process students' paperwork to ensure they receive funding. The bookstore is studying ways to reduce the cost of books, such as electronic editions and a book rental program.

The next Brown Bag with the Presidents will be held in the evening during winter quarter. Students are encouraged to send questions to Ortiz by emailing president@cpp.edu.