Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 -- As California State University prepares to close its doors to tens of thousands of qualified students next year, Chancellor Charles Reed said Tuesday he will ask Sacramento for $884 million to meet CSU's budget needs - a long-shot request from the cash-strapped state.

At the same time, a dozen popular CSU campuses - including San Francisco, Sonoma and San Jose in the Bay Area - will limit enrollment by making it harder for certain applicants to qualify, and by setting the application deadline for fall 2010 weeks early, at midnight Nov. 30.

"The California dream is access to higher education," Reed told reporters who asked how he would make his case for a 2010-11 budget that is two-thirds new money, and one-third restoration of funds cut out of the last state budget.

He said he'll ask lawmakers to readjust their priorities.

"We invest way too much money in the prison system," he said. "I'd rather see us invest in education."

If the state won't bolster CSU's budget and cuts funding again, Reed said he would consider raising student fees next spring - the third time in one year.

"The governor has made no decisions regarding CSU or any other agency," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance.

Glum fiscal outlook

Early estimates of the state's budget gap for the next fiscal year are $7 billion to $14 billion, Palmer said. Forecasts will be updated the first week of December.

California cut CSU's budget by more than half a billion dollars this year, jolting the university from top to bottom.

CSU trustees raised student fees by 32 percent, bringing the cost to $4,827 per year. That's less than many of the nation's colleges charge, but beyond the means of many families.

Course reductions have also caused severe overcrowding throughout the 23-campus system, while cost-cutting faculty furloughs have created on-again, off-again classes.

About 450,000 students are enrolled in CSU - and many more are clamoring to get in. Applications for next fall are up 53 percent over last year, Reed reported.

But more cost savings will have to come from reducing enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years, he said.

CSU has already canceled admissions for next spring. And the 12 most severely overcrowded campuses will stop accepting fall applications at the end of November, weeks ahead of the usual December deadline.

Less student access

Those 12 campuses are also reducing next fall's enrollment by making it harder for students beyond a certain distance from campus to attend. San Francisco State, for example, has always had one set of admissions criteria for all California applicants.

Not so anymore, said Jo Volkert, assistant vice president for enrollment at that campus. Applicants from just five counties - San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin - will be admitted under the regular criteria: a grade-point average of at least a 3.0, or failing that, a combination of SAT (or ACT) scores and grades. The lower the applicant's grades, the higher the test score has to be.

The criteria will be made more difficult for applicants from outside the five counties, though Volkert said the details won't be known until all applications are in.

San Francisco State is planning for about 28,500 students next fall - 2,000 fewer than this year. Much of that will be from the loss of spring enrollment. But about 300 fewer freshmen will be admitted, Volkert said.

Political science major Katherine Savvides called the situation an in-your-face lesson in California politics - the very name of a class she's taking that is frequently canceled due to faculty furloughs.

"So we have less class time to learn about these things, and the professor is getting paid less," Savvides said. "It's very ironic."

Chancellor Reed will present his budget to CSU trustees next week in Long Beach. The $884 million he is seeking from the state would raise overall support to CSU from California's general fund to $3.3 billion.

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