Remember the Cal States

With all the news of UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz student protests, it’s easy to forget that UC students aren’t the only ones suffering as a result of the budget failure. One may recall the break-out of protests on a number of University of California campuses around Thursday, November 19, when it was officially announced that UC students would be forced to pay an additional 32% fee hike, on top of current fees. A UC education is no joke, and is no cheap thing, these days, Then again, neither is a California State University education. 

With hundreds of arrests and potential arrests on UC campuses, much attention was shifted from the future of CSU campus offerings to the future of UC offerings and the affordability of a world-class education. (Technically, the UC and CSU systems are not allowed to charge “tuition,” but instead charge heightened and equivalent miscellaneous fees.) While clemency has been granted to some of the UC protestors, the same cannot be said for some CSU offerings, which are on the chopping block as we speak. Even the flagship of the California State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is not immune to huge budgetary cuts. All CSU campuses faced a $564 million total budget shortfall this year, and began to answer that monumental debt by increasing undergraduate fees by $672 and $828 for graduate students, in addition to another $306 student fee put into place the previous spring. All teaching staff members were also directed to take furlough days twice per month, to help stave off disaster. For many CSU students, this has had a significant impact: this means less face time with professors, but the same amount of knowledge is expected to be learned. Another unpopular step in addressing the CSU budget is the plan to cut enrollment by 40,000 over the next two academic years. This translates to 40,000 fewer students gaining admittance to the CSU campus of their choice after high school, which could translate to greater pressure on the beleaguered community college system, or simply fewer students going directly to a college of any sort. (Not to mention that this figure represents about 10% of all CSU students!) 

The CSU system is the largest college system in the state and the nation, serving about 450,000 students per year. It is the “gateway institution for the great majority of students seeking a baccalaureate education in California,” according to the CSU website. 

While the more glamorous UC research institutions are covered in the news, it is vital not to forget about the 23-campus CSU system, which is the unsung hero of the state. A fee increase of 32% has been seen as highly unfair by many UC students, but CSU students (and campuses) have been suffering as well. While UC campuses are not yet in danger of having their programs shut down, top-notch universities such as Cal Poly are in danger of having excellent programs cut.