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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

State’s Colleges Taking Brunt of Cuts in Budget

State’s Colleges Taking Brunt of Cuts in Budget By JEFF WEISS Contributing Reporter Last January when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger displayed his tentative budget, numerous people panicked over the proposed steep cuts to health services for the poor, transportation, and other social services. Four months later moving through the budget process there’s a little bit of relief, thanks to an influx of $2 billion in higher than expected tax receipts. However, while those components have escaped the Schwarzenegger scalpel, students and administrators in the Cal State, UC, and Community College systems face increased tuitions and the specter of having to turn away qualified applicants. While scheduled state transportation projects are not going to be delayed or axed, some politicians were disappointed at the decision to continue to take money out of the transportation fund and divert it to the general fund. State Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) criticized this practice, as well as what he believed to be the state’s wasteful tendencies. “The budget still isn’t balanced. The state will spend $3.5 billion more than it takes in and the difference is papered over with borrowed money. The budget is growing faster than inflation and population growth. Inflation and population growth are at 4.2 percent, while the May revisions are at a 5.3 percent increase in spending. The outstanding general fund supported debt will go from $31 billion to $43 billion by the end of the budget year,” McClintock said. “However, I think the governor’s determination to avoid a tax increase is a very positive development. My district is seriously impacted by the loss of transportation funds. The budget proposes raiding $1.2 billion from the state’s highway account, which continues to delay progress on vitally needed highway expansions. The $1.2 billion rate compounds a bigger problem that began under the Davis administration that has left $3.7 billion owed to the transportation account.” Decision applauded While McClintock inveighed against the lack of transportation funds allocated, Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge) felt that the revised budget spared the transportation money, allowing businesses to benefit from this decision. “I think that the May revision is very positive toward business in that it included hundreds of millions of dollars in transportation and is likely to include up to a billion dollars more for transportation infrastructure that will benefit mobility for people and goods in the region and will benefit the economy,” Richman said. “However, I think that there is still some more work that needs to be done with the out-years structural deficit. The budget projections indicate a reoccurrence of the structural deficit three years from now, so it’s important that we work to resolve that structural deficit.” Through compacts with the Cal State, UC, and community college systems, the governor guaranteed increased funding for the next six years starting in the fall of 2005, in exchange for cuts this year. As for next fall, students can expect to see community college tuition fees rise from $18 to $26 a unit, and Cal State tuition to be hiked 14 percent for undergraduates, 20 percent for people in the teacher training program, and 25 percent for graduate students. “The budget proposal needs to be understood in context of the compact that the governor signed with the Cal State Chancellor,” said California State University Northridge President Jolene Koester. “It gives us hope for 2005-06 and the out years. It means that for 2004-05, we have a $20 million budget cut, and it means we will reduce the number of students from 24,390 full time students to 23,172.” New strategy Koester said the school has worked to admit students in the freshman class in a different way, giving priority to those in the region. The freshman class will be smaller, there will be less spaces for transfer students, and probably not as many graduates next June. Because the proposed budget calls for admission of fewer students into the Cal State and UC program, many of these qualified students will be diverted into the community college system. But cutbacks are also occurring at the community college level. “Last year was a very severe cutback that we still haven’t recovered from,” L.A. Valley College President Tyree Wieder said. CSU and UC students are being redirected to us and they think that they have a guaranteed seat. We operate by state mandate on a first-come first-served basis and I’m concerned that these students will wait too long and be turned, away,” she added. “The state gives us a dollar amount for X number of students, but we have a lot more adults ready for higher education than we have space for. In the past, we accepted students when we didn’t have enough funding but we can’t do that anymore. It impacts the length of time it will take for students to graduate and we don’t expect enrollment to increase. We were funded for 3 percent growth and that’s all we can accept.”

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