SJSU in the News: CSU Chancellor Avoids Mid-Year Tuition Increase Despite State Budget Woes

Cal State, community college chiefs preparing to slash spending plans

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News Aug. 22, 2011.

By Terence Chea
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — As the new school year begins, California’s public colleges and universities are preparing for the possibility of more state budget cuts that could lead to higher tuition and fewer classes, education leaders said Monday.

The chancellors of California State University and California Community Colleges said their campuses are making plans to cope with midyear cuts that appear increasingly likely.

In the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July, the 23-campus CSU system lost $650 million, while the 112-campus community college system lost $400 million and raised fees from $26 to $36 per unit.

The two systems will face more funding cuts in the middle of the academic year if state tax revenue falls below estimates, triggering automatic cuts to education and social services.

“The budget is the big elephant in the room that we all need to worry about going forward,” CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said during a conference call with reporters. “I need to figure out how to manage what could be a midyear crisis.”

Last week, State Controller John Chiang said tax revenue fell nearly $539 million below projections in July, pushing the state closer toward the so-called trigger cuts. His report came as economic worries led to steep declines on Wall Street, a worrisome trend for a state that relies heavily on income and capital gains taxes from the wealthy.

State finance officials said Chiang’s numbers may be overly pessimistic because July is traditionally a low revenue month, and it’s too early to say whether the trigger cuts will be needed.The Cal State system, which has 412,000 students, stands to lose an additional $100 million if the midyear cuts are triggered, which would likely result in fewer course sections, fewer instructors and larger class sizes, Reed said.

He wants to avoid a midyear tuition increase because CSU students will already be paying more than 20 percent more this year than last.

The community college system, which served 2.75 million students last year, would lose an additional $72 million and raise fees to $46 per unit if midyear cuts are triggered.

Campuses would be forced to further reduce course offerings and summer sessions, potentially turning away hundreds of thousands of students, Chancellor Jack Scott said.

“This is a tragedy for students, and this is a tragedy for the state of California that desperately needs trained personnel,” Scott said.

On a brighter note, the chancellors said Monday the two systems have made significant progress in implementing a new state law to make it easier for community college students to transfer to a CSU campus