Administrators at Cal State Long Beach said they plan to lay off at least 5% of their 2,500 faculty and staff members by July 1 to trim $14 million from the university's $155-million budget.
"This is the worst I've ever seen it," said CSULB President Curtis L. McCray, whose career in education spans 25 years and six universities. "I've never been at a place as strapped as we are now."
The looming crisis, he said last week, stems from the governor's proposed budget for 1991-92, which reflects significant losses in state revenue resulting from the decline in the economy, coupled with the increased costs of maintaining necessary services such as prisons and welfare for a burgeoning population. The budget is expected to go to the Legislature this summer.
The reduction was ordered by the chancellor's office of the university system. The 34,000 students on the Long Beach campus are part of the 20-campus state university system that is almost wholly dependent on state funds.
Should the governor's budget be approved without major modifications, administrators said, one of the major losers will be the state university system and its 370,000 students. Although the state university system's total budget allocation of $2.2 billion will stay about the same, actual dollars available to the campuses will shrink sharply because of inflation, growing enrollments and salary increases already made but not provided for in the budget.
Although the entire system will be affected, McCray said, larger campuses such as Cal State Long Beach will be hit especially hard because some of their money will be diverted to smaller colleges where enrollments are still growing.
In Long Beach, that is likely to result in a budget cut of about 9%, after a long period during which costs have been increasing faster than funding.
McCray said he saw the writing on the wall three years ago, when he first took over as president.
To keep costs down and quality up, he said, the university permanently capped its enrollment at 34,000 in 1989. Last year, campus administrators reduced custodial services, eliminated some administrative positions through attrition and reduced the number of new-book acquisitions by the library. They also began charging students for such instructional supplies as copying machine copies and paper towels used in laboratory experiments.
But now, administrators said, the problem is far more serious.
"There's no way we can limit (the cuts) to academic support services," said William H. Griffith, the university's vice president of administration and finance. "A very large piece of the impact will have to fall in the classroom."
Last week, members of a university task force, including faculty, staff, administration and the student body, began a series of campus hearings on the budget crisis to determine where to make the cuts.
In addition to recommending which employees should get layoff notices and which programs should be discontinued, Griffith said, the group will consider eliminating 2,000 students from the campus next year by closing fall enrollment two months early. At least half of the reduction, he said, would come from entering freshmen, who usually number about 3,500.
After receiving the task force's recommendations, McCray said, he will make the final decisions in May.
"I'm waiting for the process to wend its way through," he said. "It's hard to send a message about the quality of education . . . but I think that such a message has to be sent."
The mood among those waiting for the ax to fall, meanwhile, is grim and, in some cases, contentious.
Recently a group of students traveled to Sacramento to express opposition to a proposed statewide 20% student-fee increase that would bring the cost of an education at the state university to $936 per year per student. Although not yet approved by the CSU Board of Trustees or the Legislature, the increase already has been included in the university's budget projections.
"We're being hit," complained Christina Speaker, president of the associated students. "Once again, students are paying for the state's deficit."
Jack Munsee, president of the campus chapter of the California Faculty Assn., the faculty union, is not convinced that faculty layoffs will be needed. "I don't think a case has been made yet," he said.
A budget crunch might force some students to delay graduation because required courses would not be offered as frequently. Frank Alfieri, chairman of the university's Academic Senate, said: "It's going to take longer for students to get through. It will be absolutely horrendous."
CAL STATE LONG BEACH SPENDING
Net Dollars Appropriation Available Year (millions) per Student 1987-88 $103.8 $4,475 1988-89 109.7 4,647 1989-90 116.5 4,936 1990-91 119.6 5,070 1991-92 114.1 4,815
NEXT STEP A task force of administrators, faculty, students and other university staff members has been asked to recommend $14 million in cuts from the Cal State Long Beach budget next year. The group will conduct hearings for two months before submitting proposed cuts to university President Curtis L. McCray, who will make the final decisions in May.