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California State University officials paint grim budget picture

CSU students protest cuts.
CSU students protest cuts.
Neon Tommy/Flickr (cc by-sa)

The California State University's Board of Trustees received a grim budget update today from university officials, who informed them it would be necessary to shut down the majority of spring 2013 enrollment save for certain transfer students at eight of its 23 campuses.

After a $750 million cut last year, the system is warily eyeing the possibility of another $200 million cut in 2012. Whether that happens depends on if Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative is approved by voters in November. If it is not approved, the cut comes down, and the system's funding is pushed back to its 1996 level, despite serving an additional 90,000 students today, according to a university release.

"We are not simply facing a 200 million dollar trigger cut possibility, starting from a point of stability," said Robert Turnage, CSU assistant vice chancellor for budget, in a presentation to the trustees meeting in Long Beach today. "We are facing it starting from a situation where we have already lost so much capacity that we are stressed severely, and essentially, what is going on is campuses are limping through this fiscal year."

The system released its worst case scenario plan Monday to shut down most of its spring 2013 enrollment and possibly slash fall 2013 enrollment depending on what happens with the tax initiative on Nov. 6. Officials presented that plan to the trustees Tuesday; the trustees do not have to sign off on enrollment plans.

According to the university, the California State University system has lost nearly $1 billion in state funding over the last four years. During that time, the system has cut its faculty and staff by more than 3,000, or 6.6 percent of its workforce. Class sizes have increased, faculty have taken on more sections, and administrative functions have been consolidated.

"We must consider other drastic options if our budget is cut again," Turnage said in a release put out after his presentation. "Those would include reducing enrollment, cutting the number of classes that are offered, and further reductions in the size of CSU’s workforce. By the 2013-14 academic year, these reductions could involve another 2,500 to 3,000 faculty and staff. These are terrible choices, and we will need to start making many decisions before we know the outcome of the election."

Some more details on changes:

The governor's 2012 budget plan proposes raising the GPA requirement for Cal-Grant program awardees. About 8,000 CSU students who be affected in the first year with more impacted in subsequent years, the system estimates.

"The students impacted would still have financial needs, and the loss of Cal-Grant funding would put added pressure on CSU financial aid resources such as state university grants," according to the university system release. "CSU already provides $700 million in state university grant aid, and currently cannot meet all student needs."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).