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California Budget Crisis Threatens To Derail Students’ Dreams

by Veronica P. Mendoza

San Jose State University senior Daniel Ruelas has been looking for a job since May 2009 without luck. His father is currently receiving unemployment benefits, so Ruelas needs to find a way to make money to pay for college and his living expenses.

“Every year they increase tuition, and it is difficult to come up with the money all the time,” Ruelas said.  

Unfortunately for Ruelas, things may become more difficult due to California’s budget crisis. California State University campuses, like San Diego State, are anticipating a $584 million budget reduction. In a video message posted on the CSU website, Chancellor Charles B. Reed revealed his action plans to address the unprecedented cuts to the university.

“I have never seen a massive reduction come so fast in the 40 years I have been doing this business,” Reed said. “It’s nothing short of a mega meltdown, financially.”

As a result of the cuts, Reed recommended to the California State University Board of Trustees that there be a student fee increase implemented in fall 2009. If the plan is approved, full-time fees will increase by $672 for undergraduate students, $780 for teacher credential students, and $828 for graduate students. This increase is in addition to an increase that was approved in May for $306 for full-time undergraduate students.

California State University stated in a news release that it will use one-third of the revenue from the fee increases to augment financial aid and to cover fees for low-income students. In Reed’s video announcement, he said 187,000 students whose families make $75,000 or less would be exempt from paying the higher fee and receiving financial aid.

In addition to increasing student fees, the CSU system also plans on reducing student enrollment. Over the next two years, student enrollment would be reduced by 40,000 students, according to Reed. The CSU has also reduced enrollment by closing spring 2010 enrollment for all CSU campuses. To close the budget gap, Reed also recommended staff and faculty furloughs and additional campus-by-campus cuts.

 

The University of California will also suffer budget cuts. In a letter published on the University of California’s website, President Mark G. Yudof wrote, “… the state is short-changing UC by more than $1 billion during 2009-2010 alone.” As a result the Board of Regents approved a one-year furlough plan that will be effective starting September 1, 2009. According to UC spokesman Ricardo Vasquez, the Board of Regents also approved a tuition increase of 9.3 percent that began this summer to prepare for the budget cuts, though there has been no word about any further tuition increases or enrollment reductions.

 

Also in January 2009, California resident freshmen enrollment was reduced by 2,300 students, but there was an increase in acceptance of community college students by 500. Vasquez said the University of California has worked hard to make sure that no particular group of students would be affected by these changes. A report published on the CSU Web site regarding freshmen 2009 admission stated that: “Despite decreases in admissions offers on some campuses, the University was able to maintain or enhance proportional representation in admissions offers to African American, American Indian and Latino students on campuses.”

 

Some students also lament the loss of pay due to reduced campus work hours. Another UC Davis student, Richard, who did not wish to use his last name, said that his Cal Grant was delayed this summer and that, as a result, he had to pay his tuition and was then reimbursed by the university once it received the money from the state. The University of California has announced it will award state-funded Cal Grants to students in fall 2009 even if the state budget is unresolved.

 

For now Richard said he has not been dramatically affected by the state’s budget crisis, but, like many current college students, he fears the worst.

 

“So far it’s not too bad, but it’s more the future I’m worried about,” said Richard.



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