Cal State trustees hear grim financial report

The California State University Board of Trustees received a grim report Tuesday on the consequences of more state funding cuts, including slashing enrollment, losing thousands of faculty and staff positions, and eliminating some academic and athletic programs.

All of those are possible if a tax measure on the November ballot fails and the system is faced with a $200-million cut that would occur in the middle of the 2012-13 academic year, officials said.

Cal State officials had announced that spring 2013 enrollment at most campuses would be frozen and that all applicants for the following fall would be wait-listed. About 20,000 to 25,000 eligible students could be turned away.

Campuses will also limit the number of courses students can take, with a maximum of 15 to 17 credits each term except for graduating seniors.

But the system’s 23 campuses also may be forced to cut low-enrollment programs and degrees and lose about 3,000 positions, said Benjamin F. Quillian, executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer, at the trustees meeting in Long Beach.

“Let there be no mistake about it, we can’t continue to nibble around the edges,” Quillian said.

Trustees asked Chancellor Charles Reed to develop alternatives to deep enrollment cuts, even while acknowledging that there is little appetite for more tuition increases.

“I understand we have no choices, but the decision-makers in Sacramento need to understand what we’re doing here,” trustee Roberta Achtenberg said. “By proceeding in this way, we’re dashing the hopes and economic viability of communities that will feel the impact of this for decades to come.”

After the grim financial discussion, the board voted 11 to 3 to approve 10% pay increases for the new presidents at the Fullerton and East Bay campuses. Dissenters were trustees Margaret G. Fortune, Steven M. Glazer and Melinda Guzman.

The pay hikes are in line with a policy adopted in January to cap the pay of executives at 10% above that of their predecessor, with a limit of $325,000 in public funds. That change came after trustees faced strong criticism for approving an annual salary of $400,000 — $100,000 more than his predecessor — for the new president of San Diego State. That was done at the same July meeting in which tuition was increased by 12%.

On Tuesday, university presidents and others attempted to deal with the lastest financial crises. Cal State Long Beach President F. King Alexander said his campus stands to take a $26-million hit if the tax increase fails and the so-called trigger forcing deep cuts to higher education is pulled.

About 2,800 transfer students will be affected by the spring freeze, he said, and about 23,000 applicants are likely to be wait-listed in fall 2013. The Long Beach campus alone typically receives about 77,000 fall applications, among the highest in the nation.

In addition, the Long Beach campus will have to pare 400 jobs and 1,800 classes.

“We already are spending so little on our students, we can no longer spend less on them and give them a quality education unless we reduce enrollment,” Alexander said. “We have to prepare for the trigger to be pulled, because we don’t have time to react.”

The majority of Cal State campuses won’t be accepting new students next spring. But eight campuses — Channel Islands, Chico, East Bay, Fullerton, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Bernardino and Sonoma — will accept a few hundred students transferring from community colleges.

The plan has left many high school and community college counselors grasping for answers on how to advise their students.

At Polytechnic High School in Long Beach, about a third of last year’s graduates who went on to higher education enrolled at a Cal State school, said Sylvia Womack, the school’s college and career center supervisor. The added uncertainty at the Cal State level will drive students to private or out-of-state schools, she said.

“This will make them think, ‘Why should I wait for Cal State Long Beach when Whittier College will take me in right now?’ ” Womack said.

Dan Nannini, the transfer center director at Santa Monica College, said that he too expects students to begin transferring at higher rates into private or out-of-state schools. Last year, the school sent more than 1,000 students to Cal State schools.

The enrollment freeze will also pause the academic careers of some students who are unable to foot the bill for a private or out-of-state school, Nannini said.

“The kid who is not of means or can’t get enough to pay, they have to wait around until someone opens up their door,” he said.

Students said they fear there will be little left of the system that educated them to pass down to future generations.

Sara Castledine, 21, a women’s studies major at Cal State Long Beach who attended the trustees meeting, said that even though she qualifies for financial aid, she’s had to work several jobs to afford college costs. She will have to move in with her parents when she graduates because she’s amassed so much debt.

“I graduate in May and if this is how it is now, how is it going to be in five years when my siblings and others are graduating and going to college?” she said. “Is there going to be a school worth going to?”