State University System Gets Crunched

As California heads
through January, ever closer to the magical date of February 1, all
California citizens face a startling truth: the state is rapidly
heading toward becoming, for lack of a better word, broke.

Governor
Schwarzenegger has already designated February 1 as the proverbial
point of no return, after which, if the state legislature doesn’t
take immediate and decisive action, the state will no longer be
solvent enough to keep hanging out checks. Rather, state workers and
those expecting tax refunds may instead expect to receive IOUs. As
fun as it might sound to receive such a novelty item from the state,
the novelty may wear off faster for those who rely on the state
government to pay their bills and buy food.

Another victim in
state’s projected $42 billion budget shortfall is the
intricate system of colleges within the state. The community colleges will surely take a hit,
though they already rely on less money in research
funding than the California State Universities, which in turn rely on
even fewer research funding dollars than the University of California
system.

According
to new reports, the UC system is being
directed to cut 2009 freshman enrollment by about 6 percent, or
between 2,000 and 2,500 new students. Interestingly, there is no
“typical” pattern here, as each UC school has chosen different
procedures to follow. The entire UC system is being forced to cut
back a total of 2,300 new students, though some of the UC’s are
increasing enrollment, while others prepare to cut back by more than 10
percent.

According
to new reports, UC Berkeley and UC Merced will
increase its freshman class, by 80 and 155, respectively, while
UCSD and UCSB face student cuts of between 6 and 12 percentage
points. UCLA’s project change is very minor. According to UC
President Mark Yudof, the enrollment cut “actually is a
modest reduction in that it aims to bring our enrollments into line
with our resources over several years rather than in a single year.…In
future years, of course, we hope the state will be able to focus
on investing in California’s human capital and provide the resources
necessary for expanded opportunity in public higher education.”
The UC regents also agreed to freeze the salaries of some of its top
administrators. The UC system currently educates about 220,000
students every year.

The CSU system is
preparing to cut nearly five times the number of enrollments as the
UC system, down about 10,000 new freshman admittances. However, the
CSU college system only serves about one-third of the number of
students that the UC system does, serving about 45,000 per year.

Both
the CSU and UC system will endure projected budget cuts of more than
$130 million as the budget is tightened to deal with the mounting
deficit. Already there have been executive orders to halt
construction on newly planned projects on public campuses, such as
new buildings and renovations to some older structures. California
State University Dominguez and Easy Bay are both victims to the cash
shortage, each containing units that were planned to undergo
renovations, or to be completed projects. All CSU’s have also
been ordered to go on a hiring freeze since January 9, when CSU
Chancellor Charles B. Reed requested the CSU universities to do so.
According to Reed, the CSU system will fall nearly $16 million short
of the funds necessary to run the CSU system in 2009-2010. Reed
summed up the CSU situation as such: “We have… been
forced to suspend and shut down state-funded design and construction
projects on all of our campuses in response to the state’s
freezing of $600 million in general-obligation and lease revenue
bonds used to finance these projects. Unfortunately, hundreds of
projects will be affected including libraries, performing arts
centers, classrooms, administration buildings, seismic upgrades,
laboratories and more.”

What will be different
about the typical UC and CSU campus next year? For all CSU’s, and for
some exempt UC’s, there will be significantly less construction
of new buildings, and a likely plateau of new programs, at least for
the coming year, as the universities work to make enough money to
stay in business.