CSUF Students Get Harsh Lesson From Budget Cuts
Ana Martinez tried to register for six classes she needed for her major, child development. What the Cal State Fullerton junior got was Theater 101.
If she is unable to add at least some of the six classes when the fall semester begins today, it will set back her planned June, 1993, graduation at least a year, if not more.
“I dread the start of school already because I know the hassle I’m going to have to go through,” said Martinez, 23, of Santa Ana. “I’ll have to run up and down and all over campus, and I still might not be able to get anything.”
Martinez is just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students feeling the impact of Cal State Fullerton’s 12.7% cut in state funding this year. Campus officials say there are some students registered for the fall semester who have no courses whatsoever, this despite a 20% fee increase.
But classes won’t be the only thing in short supply this year: There will be fewer instructors, reduced library hours and less access to non-emergency health services. There are no funds for equipment repair or replacement, and hardly any for things such as photocopies and other supplies.
Classrooms and campus grounds will be dirtier because 550 hours a week in janitorial service have been lopped from the budget. In turn, the university must buy larger trash receptacles because existing ones will fill up before the remaining custodial staff can empty them.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it--it’s Draconian,” said Academic Senate chairman Stewart Long, an 18-year economics professor.
“The whole damn campus has been hit,” said Jack Coleman, Fullerton’s vice president for student affairs, who is retiring this month after 23 years as a professor and administrator in the California State University system.
“Students are going to be paying more and getting less,” added Coleman, whose duty it has been to parcel out the university’s $16-million cut among its seven academic schools.
Students aren’t the only ones with the budget blues.
About 125 full- or part-time contract lecturers are not being rehired this year. Many part-time employees who have worked for years in the student health center, the campus library, the custodial departments and elsewhere on campus also have been furloughed. And many staff members who accept a special early-retirement package this month will not be replaced, leaving the remaining staff to carry the load.
Without as many lecturers to handle student demand, the existing 730 permanent faculty members are picking up the slack, partly by shifting to lecture-style classes with 100 or more students. For example, a class that last year was geared to 50 speech and communications majors now has moved to a lecture facility for 125 students. The usual two or three essay tests per semester will be replaced by multiple-choice and true-false examinations that can be graded by machine.
“There is no way that won’t affect the quality of education students get,” one professor said.
Many students would gladly settle for punch-card exams if only they could get into the classes they need.
Jay Bhatt, a junior in the School of Business Administration and Economics, wanted four classes in his field. He got three. Now he’s afraid he will be dropped from his parents’ car and health insurance policies because he is not a full-time student.
“It’s really hard to get anything in the business school. Everything is closed,” said Bhatt, 23, of Cerritos, as he scanned the campus registration lists for any classes in his field.
“We are getting these bogus classes that do nothing for our degrees,” he complained. “Next semester, they say it’s going to be bad, maybe even worse.”
His friend, Bhupendra Patel, just transferred to Cal State Fullerton from Cerritos College this semester as a junior majoring in management. He did get an economics class. But he, too, got a few he didn’t seek: Chicano studies and speech communications. He added two physical education classes to get his course load above the 12-unit requirement to remain on his parents’ insurance policies.
“I have 14 units but only six units I needed,” the 20-year-old grumbled. “It’s prolonging our stay here.”
Both men and Patel’s cousin, Kamesh Patel, tried to register for additional classes at Fullerton’s sister campus, Cal State Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles County.
“They said we couldn’t because we are not enrolled there,” said Kamesh Patel, 20, whose parents are paying $3,000 for his six-unit load at Fullerton. “I really mind that we can’t take the classes we need because I’m paying so much money.”
Dale Templeton is just 30 units shy of his bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. But as a transfer student from San Diego State who registered late, he was able to get only nine units toward his goal.
History 303B was one of the classes he couldn’t get and it is a prerequisite for many of the remaining courses he must take.
“Only one section (class) was offered this fall, and it’s full,” said the 29-year-old Irvine resident who had hoped to get his degree before his marriage next fall. “So I’ll have to go and try to crash the class.”
That will be easier said than done.
Professors in years past have been able to add a few extra students above their class caps. They’ve also been able to count on a number of students dropping the course by the second or third week. Now, no one may increase class size. And it will be deans who choose which students get to take any unclaimed seats.
Nor will they decide on a first-come, first-served basis. Campus administrators are giving first priority to seniors who need classes to graduate this December, and next to students whose financial aid depends on carrying at least 12 units.
But with 200 courses cut from the usual fall roster of 4,000, faculty members now believe that students realize how difficult it will be to add classes and therefore are unlikely to give up guaranteed seats in their second- or third-choice classes.
Some administrators are worried about the inevitable number of students who arrive on campus in the first week without any courses.
“We know there are students out there who have been admitted to the university who have no classes whatsoever,” said Long, chairman of the faculty senate. “I don’t know what we’re going to do if there are no classes for them.”
One alternative suggested is waiving reapplication requirements and allowing these students to enter in the spring semester without penalty. There is a major hitch in that plan, however: further midyear state budget cuts are anticipated. That means the university will be able to offer even fewer courses in the spring, Long said.
What do professors plan to tell disappointed students?
“That we have a state budget crisis and it’s out of our control,” Long said. “That if we had the funds, we would add you, but we don’t.”
But many faculty members complain that politics, not concern about quality education or staffing, is driving the cap on class size. They say that administrators want lengthy waiting lists to prove to legislators in Sacramento that more money is crucial for the survival of the state universities. Some would prefer to teach several extra students in each class if it would help them graduate on schedule.
“Some of us feel that they (administrators) want us to take up the slack, but they’re not letting us do the job we know we can do,” said one assistant professor who asked not to be named. “The real question is what kind of institution are we becoming? We’ve always been an open-door university.”
Campus administrators understand the frustration, but they argue that there has been no extra state funding to pay for the additional students. In fact, Fullerton and other CSU campuses are in their sixth successive year of budget cuts.
What it comes down to, says Vice President Coleman, is that the commuter campus now has about 25,000 full- and part-time students--or the equivalent of 17,600 full-time students, about 400 more than he had hoped to admit. The campus is getting only enough funds for about 16,800 full-time students.
“In retrospect, we should have closed enrollments in some of the schools back in December,” the vice president said.
In the School of Business and Management, the largest on campus, enrollment for the spring semester was closed before it even opened. “We have 400 excess students in the business school now,” Coleman said. “We’re going to have to service them, but I don’t know how.”
Across the campus, would-be students are being turned away.
“I had 300 applications for elementary education credentialing but I could only accept 130,” said Carol Barnes, who heads the program. “I literally had a woman in here who was admitted to medical school and not to our elementary education program. She couldn’t understand why. I had to tell her it wasn’t her grades, it was that she didn’t have any experience working with children.”
Hardly any faculty members are looking forward to the first week of classes.
“I just hate the thought,” " Barnes said, imagining the cluster of people who will be waiting at each classroom door hoping to grab an empty seat. “Each one is going to have a story that tugs at your heartstrings. But we just don’t have the money to cave in to sob stories.”
Coleman and other administrators worry about the burden on faculty. Where many tenure-track faculty used to teach nine units each semester and have time for research and other service activities, now they are required to teach 12 units. And they still must do the rest.
Cuts in supplies mean that most faculty will only be able to provide students with copies of the class syllabus. Photocopies of journal articles, outlines or other materials will have to be purchased at the Titan Bookstore because departments cannot afford the cost of paper.
Some administrators fear that the best young scholars recently recruited to join the graying ranks of the Fullerton faculty will leave as soon as the economy recovers.
“I’m afraid my brightest faculty are going to jump ship and go where they won’t have to work 60 hours a week,” said one department chairman who declined to be quoted by name.
Further, the future promises little financial relief from the state, others say. And they see the erosion of more than a decade-long effort to build Cal State Fullerton into a respected teaching and research institution.
“The thing that is so sad is that we had moved to true university status,” said Long, the faculty senate chairman. “But if the level of these cuts continue, it will not be the same quality university soon.”
Added Robbie L. Nayman, vice president for student affairs who had to slash $1.4 million out of her division’s $6-million budget: “If the university has to keep cutting like this, we will begin to cannibalize ourselves.”