Fresno State to freeze admission of new students for spring 2013

The Fresno BeeMarch 19, 2012 

Fresno State, along with 14 other California State University campuses, will freeze admissions next spring as the system grapples with $750 million in cuts over the last year, CSU officials said Monday.

Reeling from cuts last December and bracing for another possible budget hit this winter, the state's public university system plans to reduce enrollment across its 23 campuses.

The budget-cutting strategy also calls for wait-listing every applicant for the 2013-14 school year. College officials will decide how many students to admit after they know the outcome of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax plan in the November general election, said CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Turnage.

All hopeful students would be wait-listed, and receive acceptance or rejection letters next January or February for the 2013-14 school year -- after university officials know what their budgets look like, Turnage said.

Brown hopes to raise as much as $9 billion next year for education and social services by raising the sales tax and taxes on the wealthy. If his plan fails, CSU faces a $200 million cut, and the system would have to reduce enrollment by as many as 25,000.

Fresno State's share of the cut would be $11 million -- leaving fewer seats for high school seniors and transfer students. This year's campus budget is about $220 million. Depending on how many students it could accept, the university may have to toughen admissions standards.

With 20,270 students, Fresno State has exceeded its enrollment target and doesn't have the resources to accept more students in the spring, Turnage said. Adding insult to injury, the university was hit with a $5.4 million cut in December.

Fresno State President John Welty declined to respond to questions Monday, saying he will reserve his comments for a faculty-staff meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Satellite Student Union. Welty is attending the CSU Board of Trustees meeting today in Long Beach, where officials will discuss the budget plan.

In 2010, the CSU system closed spring enrollment on all campuses because of state budget problems.

Despite the latest freeze, doors will remain open in spring 2013 at eight campuses for a few hundred community college transfer students. Channel Islands, Chico, East Bay, Fullerton, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Bernardino and Sonoma will have the space to take students with an associate degree for transfer. The degree program, created by state legislation in 2010, guarantees students admission into the CSU system.

Turnage said all campuses will accept community college transfer-degree students in fall 2013 -- although students may not be able to go to the campus they want.

A $200 million loss would bring state funding for CSU down to $1.8 billion -- the lowest level since 1996-97, even though the system has 90,000 more students. Enrollment is now about 417,000.

Since 2005-06, state support for Fresno State has dropped from 67% of the university's budget to 46% this year.

During that same period, tuition more than doubled to $5,472 for undergraduates. Students will pay even more soon: a $498-per-year tuition hike will take effect this fall.

The budget plan doesn't call for additional tuition increases. Turnage said there is "no tolerance or enthusiasm" for asking students to pay more.

Meanwhile, trustees will vote today on a 10% pay increase for the recently appointed presidents of CSU East Bay and CSU Fullerton. The raises would be an increase over what their predecessors earned. The faculty union opposed the raises, which are the maximum allowed under a new CSU policy.

A study by The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources shows the median pay raise over the last year for executive officers at public universities is 1.1%.

Turnage said the raises are important to attract and keep qualified campus leaders, and the fiscal impact is minimal: "You aren't going to close by not paying the leadership of the institutions what you need to pay to get the best person."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or on Twitter @heathersomervil

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