Cal State U. system: No fat left to trim as budget cuts loom

Cal State U. system: No fat left to trim as budget cuts loom
System map from the California State University website.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The head of the California State University system warned Tuesday that big tuition hikes may be unavoidable if the state doesn't extend temporary tax increases as proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Officials at a meeting of the CSU finance committee in Long Beach said failing to extend the tax increases would result in another $500 million in cuts on top of the $500 million already proposed.

Covering the possible $1 billion in cuts may force the university to raise tuition by up to 32 percent, Chancellor Charles Reed told the committee.

"It's going to be radical. It's going to generate a lot of pain," Reed said. The chancellor said he would make formal recommendations in July on how to address the cuts, which he said would give the legislative process time to play out.

The tax increases are set to expire by July 1. Brown is expected to unveil a revised budget proposal later this month. The governor wants a special election so voters can decide whether to extend increases to personal income, sales and vehicle taxes for five years.

Republican lawmakers opposed to extending tax increases thwarted Brown's budget proposal earlier this year.

If additional revenue for the CSU system does not emerge in a final budget agreement, a tuition increase would be an unwelcome but possibly necessary option.

"It would keep our doors open. It would allow us to continue access. It would allow us to continue to maintain as much quality that we could," Reed said.

With a portion of a tuition increase funneled back into financial aid, the system's 23 campuses would still have to absorb another $100 million in cuts, he said. If the budget debate drags into the fall, Reed said the CSU may have to postpone making admissions decisions until they had a better idea how many students they could afford to enroll.

Before Reed spoke, the presidents of San Francisco State University and Cal State-Long Beach described the strain that budget cuts already in place have had on their campuses.

San Francisco State has lost more than 100 tenure track professors over the past year, or about 12 percent of its faculty, and can do little to replace them, president Robert Corrigan said.

Cal State-Long Beach President F. King Alexander said the 10 largest campuses in the CSU system spend about $13,000 per year per student, far less than similarly sized campuses in other states. A further drop in spending per student would move the CSU system closer to a community college model, he said.

"We are closer to the bone than any other system in America," Alexander said. "We don't have the fat to trim anymore."