Budget Cuts Will Affect Enrollment At CSU

The nation's largest university system says huge budget cuts mean it won't be able to accept all eligible student applicants. The California State University traditionally has accepted every student with at least a B average. Now it is on the verge of raising its academic standards and pushing up its application deadlines. Those actions are expected to hurt low-income students with few academic choices.

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California's university system said this week they will scale back enrollment by thousands of students unless the state increases funding, which is not too likely. There's a financial crisis. The announcement by the University of California's Board of Regents yesterday came after a similar statement by its cousin, the California State University Network. With 23 campuses, Cal State is the nation's largest university system. NPR's Richard Gonzales says there's already some panic at high schools.

RICHARD GONZALES: Oakland Technical High is an inner-city school that has made great strides recently in creating a college-going culture. About a third of its 1,700 students go to a four-year college such as the California State University or CSU. Principal Sheilagh Andujar takes pride in the progress her students have made, and that's why she's making this urgent announcement on her PA system.

Ms. SHEILAGH ANDUJAR (Principal, Oakland Technical High): Seniors, listen, the application deadline for CSU is November 30th. It's extremely important. CSU's just made an announcement today that they are accepting 10,000 fewer applications, so you need to make sure your application is in on time on the 30th. They will not extend the deadline.

GONZALES: The California State University system is larger than its more prestigious cousin, the University of California. And traditionally it has accepted all seniors in California with a B average. But CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said in a teleconference this week that state budget cuts to the tune of $97 million will mean those days are over.

Dr. CHARLES REED (Chancellor, California State University): We can't continue to admit more and more students without receiving adequate funding.

GONZALES: Cal State will give priority to students applying to campuses near their homes and to veterans, as well as community college transfers. But Reed says students applying late most likely won't make the cut.

Dr. REED: Many of these students come from families that are underserved and families of color. They are not sure about how to get together their finances to be able to go to college.

GONZALES: And it's not just prospective students who will get hammered by the state budget cuts. At campuses such as San Francisco State University, officials are already scaling back on instruction, says spokeswoman Ellen Griffin.

Ms. ELLEN GRIFFIN (Spokeswoman, San Francisco State University): Practically speaking, budget cuts would impact the student experience. And students would most likely have fewer classes to select from. Class size may be larger. It may be required that they take longer to graduate as they're getting the courses that they need to graduate.

GONZALES: Many students who are denied acceptance to the Cal State system may turn to the community colleges. But that network of 110 campuses is also stressed to the breaking point, which means this could be a very bleak year for California's graduating seniors. Back at Oakland Tech, senior Jenea Paradon(ph) wonders what the Cal State cutbacks will mean for her plans to become a nurse.

Ms. JENEA PARADON (Senior, Oakland Technical High): It's going to take longer for us to get to where we're trying to go, because if they don't offer the classes that we need, we're not going to make it there. And at the same time, because we're the first graduating class of this whole recession, so it's not going to be easy for us now, because basically we don't have funds to go to do what we want to do.

GONZALES: And the cuts couldn't come at a worse time. Due in part to California's mini baby boom, the state university system anticipates a 20 percent increase in the number of enrollment applications over last year. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

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