Archive » September 10, 2009
COLLEGES GRAPPLE WITH STATE BUDGET SLASHING
By Jeremy Foster, Staff Writer
As the fall sessions roll in at local colleges, so do the aches from the deep cuts imposed by the state when it passed its budget in August.
More than 3 million students who are a part of the state’s three-tiered system – the UC, Cal State and community colleges – already have returned, or will return, to campus to find crowded classes, less access to faculty, shrinking class offerings and fewer campus services.
UC faces a shortfall of more than $637 million for the new school year as well as a $335 million gap related to increasing costs. Similarly, the CSU system is encumbered with an equally unprecedented budget deficit of $584 million and community college spending has been reduced by about $680 million.
Impact at UCSB
Saddled with a $45 million budget shortfall, UCSB is cobbling together a plan to spread around the financial pain with furloughs, service cuts, and higher student fees.
In anticipation of the cuts, the university last year reduced its staff positions by 235, through layoffs and leaving vacant positions empty, and enacted a hiring freeze for most employees, except for those under union contracts and other contractual agreements, according to Paul Desruisseaux, associate vice chancellor for Public Affairs.
State cuts to the campus have triggered 1,650 fewer admission offers than last year. Additionally, the campus is not accepting transfer students for enrollment in the winter quarter. In keeping with its pledge to accept more transfer students in the fall, the school plans to enroll about 1,800 transfer students this fall, about 200 more than last year.
Many of the specific effects of the latest cuts for this year will not be known until later this month when the university completes its budget reduction plan, but students can expect to pay an additional $662 in fees for this coming year while seeing a reduction in student services, course offerings and larger class sizes.
“When the students come here in three weeks (Sept. 24), they’re going to find some of the classes they’ve signed up for are quite large and they may want to reconsider their options,” Desruisseaux said Friday. The cuts’ full impact will not be felt until the winter and spring quarters, he added.
“The campus is trying to work its way through to find alternative revenue streams and deal with the cuts, but it’s going to be an extremely challenging and difficult process,” he said.
In order to trim down the number of staff that will be pink-slipped, the university is operating under a furlough plan, which began Sept. 1 and will span a 12-month period and calls for employees to take 11 to 24 days off without pay.
Furloughs will amount to pay reductions of 4 to 10 percent and are based on salaries.
UCSB student and UC Regent Jesse Bernal, 27, said anxiety is running high among students, faculty and staff.
“No one is sure what they’re going to see when the fall quarter starts,” said Bernal, a fifth-year graduate student studying education.
Bernal said UCSB is facing a 30-percent reduction in student services and administrative affairs and a 15-percent cut in student affairs. These services include academic advisement, diversity outreach, teaching assistant programs and counseling services.
Cuts to the university’s Educational Opportunity Program, designed for students with disadvantaged or low-income backgrounds – many of them first-generation – concern Bernal, who studies issues of retention for underrepresented minorities.
Students searching for on-campus jobs are finding it more difficult than in previous years because employers are peeling back on the number of employees, he said.
“Students who are paying for their own education or are using that money for extra living expense are going to need to find that money elsewhere,” Bernal said. “It might take students longer to graduate if they’re working off campus and are not given the same flexibility of students who work on campus.”
Another rising concern is potential cuts to mental health services.
“We have a lot of studies that show student mental health issues are on the rise but the services to support those students are decreasing, so it’s definitely something to be concerned about,” Bernal said. “The state has really decided to lose a necessary investment when they pulled out funding for education.”
About 70 campus projects at the school are being kept afloat by bonds; however, some construction projects, such as the expansion of the Davidson Library, have been postponed until the campus receives funding from the state’s sale of bonds.
CSU’s, too, expect an unpredictable year and have enacted the same cost-cutting measures as UC campuses; but CSU’s have taken more drastic steps in reducing enrollment. Campuses have turned away 40,000 students; moved up application deadlines; and have terminated the Spring 2010 admission.
“My education has been put on the backburner,” said Santa Ynez resident Gabrielle Moreira, a communications major who planned on attending Cal. State Northridge in spring but now must wait until fall.
Claudia Keith, assistant vice chancellor for Public Affairs, said closing admissions for the semester was necessary to offset the rising cost per student. Also, CSU’s aren’t infused with the same amount of research grants as UCs and are more reliant on state funding, she added.
Allan Hancock College and SBCC
Community colleges in the state have seen a 4.9 percent surge in enrollment. School officials attribute this to restricted admissions at four-year colleges coupled with the state’s 11.9 percent unemployment rate, which has led to record numbers of students seeking degrees, certificates or job training.
Santa Barbara City College has seen its enrollment rise by 6.8 percent for the fall quarter, compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, the campus anticipates losing 200 course offerings by spring 2010.
“We are preparing for the worst,” said President Dr. Andreea Serban.
As with other schools, SBCC does not plan on touching its core programs and classes in the areas of career, technical education, transfer and basic skills.
Serban said the average class size is set to surge but did not say how much.
To help assuage this problem, teachers are volunteering their time to admit more students in classes. “If the class had a limit of 30, the teachers may take three to five more students,” she added. “The demand is really high.”
The college also recently announced construction of the new School of Media Arts building on the college’s main campus is postponed indefinitely. “Groundbreaking was expected for 2010 for the 65,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility which would have brought together the diverse media arts departments – including journalism, photography, graphic design, and film and television production – under one roof,” a press release read. “The move would have also cleared badly needed space for other departments on campus.”
Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria has seen a 3-percent increase from last year in the number of full-time students, while it has trimmed its course offerings by 12 percent or 200 class sections, according to Rebecca Alarcio, the school’s director of public affairs and publication.
This has led to the average size increasing by 17 percent.
Freshman Anthony Hernandez, 26, said he was lucky to get the courses he’s registered for considering his cousin was squeezed out of attending because of booked courses.
Still, he has experienced the impact of the budget cuts.
“Fees and book prices have gone up, and the classes are so packed that you have 30 people on a waiting list,” contended Hernandez, a business major. “There are not that many classes as there used to be. I was looking at last year’s scheduling book. There is so much less to offer students.”
Moreover, Hernandez has been struggling to find work on campus to help him pay for college.
“It seems that instead of people finding jobs, they are losing them,” said Hernandez, who is waiting to see if he will get approved for the school’s work-study program as well as how much financial aid he will receive.
Alarcio said administrators are worried about mid-year state aid cuts and inadequate state funding for 2010-11.
“We haven’t decided upon furloughs or layoffs yet,” she said. “But the expectation is that the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Some effects of the budget slashing include a reduced access to academic counseling.
“These cuts are difficult for students who are seeking out how to decide their career paths,” she said. “What makes this worse is that students need this counseling before they can get financial aid.”
Hernandez said he hasn’t received counseling and is still waiting to see how much financial aid he’ll receive before he can be approved for work study.
Said Hernandez: “It’s frustrating.”