California State University proposed plans Monday to either hike tuition or slash enrollment and employee pay to make up for a $250 million loss of state money if voters do not approve Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal in November.
The two proposed budget-cutting scenarios, laid out by Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Turnage in a call with reporters, forecast a bleak year for the state's public university system if its 23 campuses are hit with another round of trigger cuts mid-year.
"The easy choices are gone," Turnage said.
One option is to fill CSU's budgetary hole with revenue from tuition hikes. The proposal calls for increasing in-state tuition by 5%, or about $150 per semester, starting in January 2013. Out-of-state and international students would pay an additional 9%.
"It's ridiculous that students pay more and more each year and get less and less," said Jaime Moncayo, a 2012 Fresno State graduate who now works on education issues with StudentsFirst, a national education advocacy group in Sacramento. "Something has to change."
Also in the first option, faculty and staff would lose 2.5% in pay and benefits starting in 2013.
The second option averts tuition hikes but proposes dramatic cuts to staff. Under the plan, 750 employees would lose their jobs, and employees -- even college presidents -- would be hit with a 5.25% pay cut. In addition, about 6,000 students who otherwise could attend CSU would be denied admission because of enrollment reductions. CSU enrolls 427,000 students.
The CSU Board of Trustees will discuss both options at its meeting today and make a final decision on contingency budget plans in September.
"We don't have the luxury of just sitting back and waiting for the November election to see what we're going to do," Turnage said.
With the trigger cuts, Turnage said state support for CSU will have dropped by $1.2 billion since 2007-08, the last "normal" budget year for CSU.
Fresno State would have to slash about $13.1 million from its approximately $220 million budget.
Fresno State President John Welty will discuss the budget scenarios on Wednesday, following the Board of Trustees meeting.
In an email statement, Welty said: "If the mid-year 'trigger cut' of $250 million becomes reality, the CSU board faces some very difficult choices. Unfortunately, the alternatives will involve shared pain for everyone."
With the mid-year cuts, state support for Fresno State would fall to about $88 million, approximately 41% of the budget. In 2005-06, the state funded about 67% of the university's budget. In 1991, the state funded 96%.
The tuition increase may be the most likely plan if the tax measure fails. Turnage said outgoing Chancellor Charles Reed, who announced his retirement in May, supported the increase.
And Moncayo, who worked on legislative issues with the California State Student Association, said he thought that option was best for students. Most students would prefer to pay the modest increase, he said, than lose more faculty, programs and services.
"Without the tuition increase, we don't know what would be cut," he said. "That would be worse."
The proposed $150 per-semester fee increase for 2013 would be in addition to the $249 per-semester tuition hike approved last year that takes effect this fall.
However, if the tax measure passes, CSU may refund the fall fee increases to students -- an unprecedented move, according to a Fresno State spokeswoman.
The proposed spring tuition hike is an about-face from statements made by the CSU leadership in March, when Turnage said the university system had no plans to increase fees. At that time, 15 campuses, including Fresno State, had just announced they would freeze enrollment next spring.
In the months following, however, the state approved a budget that attempts to deal with the state's ballooning deficit with deep cuts and hangs CSU's funding on the successful passage of the governor's tax measure.
The tuition increase may also be the more viable option because cuts to faculty and staff would require union agreement.
Salary cuts "are not something that can be imposed upon faculty," said Brian Ferguson, spokesman for the California Faculty Association.
The California Faculty Association and the chancellor's office are headed into final negotiations this week after months of failed talks to work out a three-year contract, which includes a union request for back pay for professors and a 1% general salary increase.
Ferguson said a 5.25% salary cut "is not something that would be well-received."
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