California budget crisis hits students, education workers
Published Jul 30, 2009 10:54 PM
The economic crisis in California spells hardship at the state’s public
universities as budgets are balanced through a combination of tuition hikes and
pay cuts for faculty and other workers.
The California State University system recently raised student fees by 20
percent after the Board of Trustees voted 17-1 to approve the increase. CSU
officials ignored hundreds of student demonstrators who came out to protest the
CSU is the largest four-year university system in the country, and the fee hike
will impact an estimated 450,000 students. CSU took the additional step of
reducing enrollment by 40,000 students to further cut costs.
The California Faculty Association and California State Employees Union have
approved separate agreements to furlough their members two days a month in
response to pressure from university officials. The agreements affect
approximately 39,000 CSU faculty and classified workers. By a wide margin, the
faculty union voted no confidence in Chancellor Charles B. Reed’s
leadership of CSU.
The fee increases, reduced enrollment and furloughs have not prevented CSU from
planning hundreds of layoffs, a reduction of course offerings, and the
elimination of entire academic programs.
CSU has a reputation as one of the most affordable university systems in the
country. The system is sometimes referred to as the “People’s
University” due to the large number of students who are poor, working
class and people of color. The recent cuts amount to an attack on the right to
quality higher education in California.
The University of California has not escaped the wrath of California’s
economic crisis and misplaced budget priorities of state elected officials. UC
recently announced that it expects to see an $813 million reduction in support
from the state general fund.
As a result the UC Board of Regents voted to institute severe funding cuts on
its 10 campuses and force 108,000 employees to take between 11 and 26 furlough
days this year. The furloughs amount to a salary cut of up to 10 percent for
Most UC campuses have already placed a hiring freeze on half of planned faculty
hires. The system has seen 724 staff layoffs, with more expected. Freshman
enrollment was earlier cut by 2,300 students, and a fee increase of 9 percent
is in place for the fall semester. UC President Mark G. Yudoff has warned
students to expect an additional fee increase in the winter.
The community college and K-12 system is also hit hard with double-digit cuts.
The K-12 budget, which includes community colleges, lost $6.1 billion in
funding. The community college system expects $936 million of that to come out
of its budget.
The attacks on public higher education hit full throttle after Republican Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders reached a deal to
reduce funding for California’s university systems by 20 percent in an
attempt to close the state’s $26 billion budget gap.
The extreme budget cuts mean that fewer students will have the opportunity to
obtain a higher education in California. Those who are admitted into an
institution of higher learning will be forced to pay more and attend longer in
exchange for lower quality of education.
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