Ryan Chartrand

Last week, after recognizing the $14 billion dollar deficit in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a $312.9 million cut to the California State University system for the 2008-09 year, leaving 450,000 CSU students and 23,000 CSU faculty questioning the future fiscal changes that they and their colleges will face.

In terms of Cal Poly, a strong impact will be seen in the number of students accepted. Cal Poly President Warren Baker said in a media conference Tuesday that the university expects to cut down enrollment by 500 students.

The number of new students for the 2007-08 school year was about 4,100, he said, so only about 3,600 will be accepted this spring. And although the CSU receives money from student fees, the state is responsible to fund the growth and enrollment of the system, said Larry Kelley, the vice president for administration and finance.

Baker warned that enrollment cuts have a significant effect on the future economy, which is strongly dependent on college graduates and preventing such access to prospective college students will negatively affect the state of California in years ahead.

In addition to the proposed $312.9 million cut, the CSU Trustees have also requested that the state fund what would be the equivalent of a 10 percent student fee increase, Kelley said, bringing the total up to $386 million.

Cal Poly’s share of the budget stands at approximately 6 percent based on enrollment. Kelley said that about 70 percent of the university’s money comes from the state, while the remaining 30 percent comes from other sources, such as tuition and donations.

But exact figures for how the budget will affect the university will not be known until the summer. This makes it “extremely difficult to plan” when prospective students receive acceptance letters in February and March, Kelley said.

The university will also be forced to look for ways of accommodating contracts with unions such as the California Faculty Association which carry over into this year. Kelley estimated that approximately 80 percent of costs go toward compensation for university employees and said that despite the proposed budget, all current faculty and staff searches will still go forward as planned.

Also related to the budget issue is the matter of the proposed science building project. Plans have been in the works to replace the Science building, otherwise known as “the spider building,” due to the fact that it “can no longer support the pedagogy of advancement in science,” Baker said.

Officials said Cal Poly requires approximately $100 million in order to complete the project and is now dependent on an education-based bond, which has been encouraged by the governor to appear on the November ballot.

So far, architects have reviewed the building plans, but the university is waiting on detailed design and construction, which was scheduled for November.

“Construction can’t begin until we have the funding and it will take time to trickle down to Cal Poly,” Baker said. “If the bond doesn’t make it onto the ballot, it’s a significant delay, so there is potential that this could get worse.”

This budget cut is reminiscent of 2002 when the system suffered a $500 million slash in resources, causing a 62 percent hike in fees since then.

“It’s already gone up and it’s still going to increase if we do not do something,” said Summer Baird, an animal science freshman. “It could be four years left for me and then graduate school – it’s hard to imagine.”

Olgalilia Ramirez, director of governmental relations for the California State Student Association and graduate student at Sacramento State, said the proposal does not go along with the affordable education system planned for students in the 1960s, especially with the past increases in tuition after the last budget cut almost five years ago.

“(Students) need to hold legislatures accountable and talk to them more about the impact this might have on their families and their workloads,” Ramirez said.

Brian Ferguson, communications specialist for the California Faculty Association, compared the budget cut to the equivalent of what it costs to run and operate both the Los Angeles and Dominguez Hills campuses.

“This proposal is not a good thing for the system and the students will be paying more and getting less back,” Ferguson said. “This truly hinders the future of California.”

But Paul Browning, a CSU public affairs spokesperson, is already seeing it affect the system in that many CSU campuses have had to push up their application deadline to Feb. 1. This problem, though, does not affect Cal Poly given that its admissions deadline was Nov. 30.

Still, Browning warned, “this could have a major effect on high school seniors who are applying.”

He also said this proposal could potentially force class sections to slow down which could mean a slower graduation timeline for many students.

“There could even be a possible lay off to part-time faculty,” he said, noting that the CSU increases 7.5 percent in student population every year and has an additional 2,000 students in 2008.

The budget will be voted on in March and will then go through what is called a “May revise” in May before the final budget is announced in July of this year.

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