Students starting the school year at California Community Colleges this week will pay higher fees and have fewer courses from which to choose. At California State University campuses, students will find their classes packed, fewer library books available and the ranks of part-time faculty thinned.
That dismal picture could worsen if the state’s financial problems force colleges and universities to make additional budget cuts mid-year, leaders of the systems said Monday during a conference call with reporters.
As it is, the state’s 112 community colleges will offer 5% fewer classes this fall, Chancellor Jack Scott said. Based on projected annual demand, an estimated 670,000 students who otherwise would enroll in at least one class will not be served, he added.
Community college students, whose fees already have risen to $36 per unit for this school year from $26 last year, are likely to face a further increase if state revenue doesn’t meet projections. State funding to the two-year colleges was reduced $400 million for this year. Further cuts would trigger an additional $10 per unit fee increase for spring 2012.
That has appeared more likely since a recent report by state Controller John Chiang that California’s tax revenue fell $539 million below expectations in July.
Scott said a mid-year increase would be especially difficult because campuses would have to collect the fees from students who had already enrolled for the second semester.
“All of the colleges…are looking carefully at their budgets,” Scott said. “As to whether it would push some over the edge, I don’t know yet. They have cut back on the number of class sections and many may well have to eliminate summer session.”
Speaking on the same conference call, Cal State Chancellor Charles Reed said he would seek to avoid a mid-year tuition hike. State funding for the 23-campus system fell $650 million for this school year and annual tuition for full-time undergraduates rose 22% from last year, to $5,472. With campus-based fees that average $950, students will pay about $6,422 annually, not including books and housing.
If state revenue falls short, Cal State and the University of California — whose funding also fell $650 million this year — will take an additional $100 million cut.
Cal State will enroll 10,000 fewer students this fall. Reed said many campuses also will try to save money by skipping repairs, not renewing contracts with part-time faculty and not replacing library books.
The Cal State leader complained that higher education took a “disproportionate reduction” in the state budget. “It’s outrageous that the prison system budget is larger than UC and Cal State put together,” he said.
The two chancellors did report some good news, announcing that more than 130 academic programs have developed associate degrees that will enable community college students to obtain junior status at Cal State campuses under a streamlined transfer process. The new process, signed into law last year, is expected to save $160 million annually and eventually provide space for an additional 40,000 community college students and 14,000 Cal State students each year.
But that will not help campuses forestall painful cuts this year. Mt. San Antonio College, which enrolls 40,000 students in for-credit courses, said Monday it will cut 6% of its offerings this fall, or 507 classes and course sections. At Bakersfield College, enrollment is down nearly 9%, 156 classes have been cut and more than 12,500 students are wait-listed.