California State University (CSU) trustees discussed cost-reduction measures Tuesday but discounted the possible closure or chartering of one or more of its campuses.
CSU system officers presented ideas to offset the ailing university budget at the Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach. Among the potential actions were raising professors’ classloads, discontinuing programs at some campuses and further tuition hikes.
“There’s a culture and hysteria that comes when you mention the ‘T-word,’ (tuition)” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said at the conference. “But what are the alternatives?”
Chief financial officer Benjamin Quillian called the presentation a “menu of options” for trustees to consider Tuesday. He made it clear, however, that the board could not take action until further research and analysis was completed.
The proposals began with those which staff said would cut costs throughout the university system. Much of it focused on creating efficiencies among the CSU campuses by taking action such as raising student-teacher ratios and consolidating administrative functions between universities.
The largest cost-cutting measure, however, involved closing one of the CSU’s smaller campuses. Reed said after the presentation that this was not an option.
“We are not going to close a campus,” he said. “I have never, politically, seen any state do that. As soon as you start that, it starts raining, and it won’t quit.”
Taking center stage for some watching to see what could happen at Cal Poly was an idea to charter one of the more affluent campuses. A local media report last week outlined what chartering would entail; it included the loss of all state funding and the likely outcome of tuition prices skyrocketing.
Prior to the meeting, there was speculation a charter campus of this type would work well at Cal Poly or San Diego State University (SDSU) because of its student population, though no specific mention of those universities was made during the Board of Trustees meeting.
“The demands would be great for external funding,” Quillian said. “And the state would have to be reimbursed for the facilities provided.”
Trustee Steven Glazer, a SDSU alumnus, said he is opposed to chartering a campus. He said it would not free up resources for other campuses but would instead decrease state support even further.
Cal Poly public relations team leader Stacia Momburg said she and Vice President of Finance Larry Kelley believe it was premature to discuss anything brought up at the meeting Tuesday, since no action was taken by the trustees. She said the university has no authority over the board and must follow whatever decisions it makes.
Several trustees said it was more realistic to implement other measures, including some that were endorsed by the California State Student Association (CSSA) last weekend at a conference in San Luis Obispo. Combining different campuses’ administrations, raising tuition for students taking more than 15 units and charging fees for students who retake courses were among CSSA’s recommendations to the board.
“None of them are good, they’re far from ideal, but the students did show some indication of favorability of a couple of proposals,” CSSA President Greg Washington said.
The cost-cutting techniques come in preparation of a possible $200 million “trigger cut” that would come to the CSU system next year. That trigger cut would only occur if November voters turn down the governor’s proposal to raise taxes for wealthier Californians, as well as the sales tax.
University finance officers have been told to plan as if the cut will come into effect, even though no one will know its fate until the November elections. The cut could become even larger during the state government’s May revise of its budget — some predict it could increase to as much as $250 million.
Kelley sent an email to Cal Poly employees Monday in advance of the meeting in which he thanked professors for their efforts to save money during California’s budget crisis. He wrote that no idea discussed among the Board of Trustees will move forward without “discussion and due diligence.”
“Their list of ideas is just that, a wide range of ideas that may have merit and should be investigated more thoroughly,” he wrote. “The list was generated from a cross-section of employees including presidents, faculty and staff in search of ways to mitigate the reductions.”
The Board of Trustees concluded the conference by agreeing to spend more time considering all the ideas in the coming months and develop details of a financial strategy during summer.