New Poll: Californians Value the CSU, But Worry About Funding
Californians rate the CSU and the state’s other public higher education systems as good to excellent according to a new poll, but are concerned about rising costs and the impact of state budget cuts on enrollment, fees and fewer classes.
The third annual statewide survey on higher education by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) revealed that 61 percent of those polled rated the CSU as excellent or good and 55 percent say college is necessary for a person’s success. But the poll indicated that many Californians see a college degree as increasingly difficult to attain (65 percent), and more than two-thirds of residents say that many qualified people lack the opportunity to go to college.
“The California Dream of a higher education is disappearing,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “We are grappling with the results of massive budget cuts and unfortunately have been faced with little choice but to raise student fees and decrease enrollment. The PPIC poll confirms that the public values higher education, but you cannot continue to operate the largest public university system in the country and offer students a quality education when your budget is cut by 20 percent in one year.”
Although most Californians (59 percent) place a very high or high priority on spending for public higher education, 68 percent said they are unwilling to increase student fees and 56 percent are opposed to paying higher taxes to offset state spending cuts. A majority of residents have lost confidence in state leaders’ handling of higher education and their ability to plan for its future.
Half of survey respondents believe that major changes are needed in the higher education system and feel the best way to improve it is a combination of better use of existing funds and increased funding. A strong majority (67 percent) also support the idea of a sliding scale for tuition and fees, as well as increased government funding for work-study and grants and scholarships.
“More than half of the CSU’s students receive financial aid,” said Reed, “and we are the largest recipient of Pell awards (which go to the neediest students) in the entire country. It is time for the federal government to re-examine how federal assistance is distributed so that institutions that serve needy students are adequately supported. As it stands now, universities that have few students of color and few students with financial need are receiving unnecessary federal financial aid.”
Other key findings from the study include:
- The 2010 gubernatorial candidates’ positions on higher education are very important to 53 percent of those surveyed;
- Many parents (46 percent) say they do not have enough information on financial aid; and
- The majority of Californians (54 percent) believe that an economically and racially diverse student body is very important for public colleges and universities.
Proposed Budget Focuses on Reinvestment, Recovery
In the midst of dealing with the largest budget cut in its history, California State University leaders next week will discuss their 2010-11 budget proposal of $884 million, calling it a “recover and reinvest” budget.
The CSU is asking the state to restore funding for one-time cuts imposed in the current budget totaling $305 million. The university is also asking for the revenues outlined in the Higher Education Compact that provided for mandatory cost increases, enrollment growth and compensation increases ($296 million, which also includes revenue needed for the legislature to “buy out” a 10 percent student fee increase for the 2010-11 academic year), as well as $283 million of “Core Compact Recovery” that would have funded the CSU’s collective bargaining agreements for the past two years.
The CSU Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the total package at its meeting November 17, and then forward the request to the governor and the legislature. “This is a very ambitious budget in very challenging times,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “But it is critical that the state legislature and administration realize the true fiscal needs to run the CSU.”
Record Number of Applicants Vying to Enter the CSU When Enrollment is Being Cut
More students applying to the CSU and fewer slots to offer them is resulting in a 53 percent increase in prospective applicants to the CSU over the same time last year.
The CSU has received more than 266,000 applications from prospective students since the priority application period began October 1. First-time freshmen applications have increased 32 percent over the same time last year. But the largest increase–127 percent–is from the nearly 89,000 students (mainly from California community colleges) applying for upper-division transfer to a CSU. The spike is due in part to the CSU being forced to close winter and spring admissions, which heavily impacts transfer students from community colleges.
The CSU is in the process of having to reduce its enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years because of state funding shortfalls. Last year, the CSU declared systemwide impaction saying it would be forced to reduce enrollment by 10,000 students, a target it will reach by spring 2010.
The enrollment reductions are one of the consequences of the CSU’s budget being cut $564 million–or roughly 20 percent–this year. “You cannot see a 20 percent drop in revenue and serve the same number of students,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. “Denying students access to higher education is one of the worst things you can do in a recession. The state needs our graduates to enter the workforce and help the state’s economic recovery. But when our budget is cut so drastically, we are left with little choice but to restrict our enrollment.”
The CSU’s priority application period for first-time freshmen and community college transfers runs through November 30. All 23 campuses will remain open for applications through November 30, but at least 12 campuses will stop accepting applications after that date with more likely. More information.