CSUN to Begin New Semester With Huge Financial Challenges By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter As school officials prepare to mark the 10th anniversary of the earthquake that nearly destroyed its campus, Cal State Northridge is beginning 2004 on a bleak note but this time troubles are due entirely to finances and not Mother Nature. Rather than accepting students up to the last minute before a semester begins as has been a common practice, school officials will only accept students for the upcoming spring semester who applied between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, 2003. The university is also perilously close to using up its reserves, which when they run out could result in fewer classes and layoffs, according to CSUN officials. “We truly don’t know what is going to happen in the next academic year,” said Carmen Ramos Chandler, CSUN spokeswoman. CSUN’s troubles are being caused by $328 million in budget cuts from the entire California State University system due to the current state’s fiscal woes. The initial budget cut of $304 million was included in former Gov. Davis’ CSU budget for 2003-04. Gov. Schwarzenegger announced last month he was cutting an additional $23.7 million, redirecting the funds to local governments. When the governor’s 2004-05 fiscal year budget proposals are released in the next few weeks, CSU funding is expected to be cut again, campus officials said. Plans for a CSU hiring freeze were outlined in a memorandum from the governor’s office to the office of CSU Chancellor Charles Reed last month. Across the CSU system, the budget cuts are having an effect. Because of the latest cut, Reed announced the Board of Trustees decided to cap enrollment growth at 3.3 percent throughout the system, a 1 percent drop from its 4.3 percent projection. The board chose to cut enrollment growth over eliminating outreach programs for low-income students, CSU officials said. As a “destination campus” CSUN is first choice for many applicants seeking admission to the CSU. California Master Plan for Higher Education, which went into effect in 1960, guarantees the top one-third of California’s graduating high school class a spot at one of the CSU’s 23 campuses. But the budget cuts may be chopping away at that plan. CSUN is operating on a budget of approximately $242 million this year. That figure includes about $8 million in reserves. For the next academic year, university officials said they will have scarce reserve money, if any, and probably not enough to patch up the budget gap. Because of this, the university may have to resort to drastic measures, including, but not limited to, cutting classes and layoffs, CSUN officials said. “This (next year) could be the most devastating,” said Cynthia Rawitch, the associate dean at the university’s College of Arts, Media and Communication. “There will be more students that want to come in to (CSUN) than we have room for.” CSUN, the third largest CSU campus, is one of the most severely hit by the budget cuts. Only San Diego State, which will not admit new students for the fall semester, is having bigger problems, said Clara Potes-Fellow, a CSU spokeswoman. “At a certain point you can’t continue to grow and not have the dollars,” said William Watkins, CSUN’s associate vice president and dean of students. For those who are able to get into CSUN, tuition has increased drastically in recent years. The undergraduate tuition fee at CSUN was $714 for full-time students in the late 90s. In 2002-03, the fee was raised to $786 per semester and in 2003-04 it stands at $1,023. “I think it’s a sign of the times when it comes to higher education,” said Marcus Vanderberg, a former CSUN student, now attending Santa Monica College, who was turned away for enrollment this spring. “I can’t argue with the increased fees but turning away students is pretty crazy. It’s meant for the students in California,” he said. CSUN’s Chandler said the university is pushing its fundraising efforts and departments will scrutinize purchases, before considering laying off employees.