For 2010-11 year, administration considers options

It may seem as if the school year has barely begun, but Cal State Long Beach is already preparing for possible solutions to solve a $20 million deficit the university will face upon entering the 2010-11 school year.

Some reductions seen this year will carry over to the following school terms. CSULB will continue to suffer a 10.8 percent enrollment cut, making up 3,044 full-time equivalent students, and some programs may be suspended until further notice.

Mary Stephens, vice president of administration and finance, outlined three possible scenarios at budget meetings held Oct. 15 to demonstrate how the budget may play out next year.

The first scenario asks for a mandatory cost increase, assuming there are no state budget reductions for 2010-11 and no student fee increases. The mandatory cost would relate to employee benefits and utility costs.

The second scenario also requires mandatory cost increase in addition to a 3.25 percent state budget reduction and 10 percent student fee increase.

Lastly, scenario three calls for the same plan as the second with the exception of the possibility of a higher state budget reduction at 6.5 percent.

The three possible scenarios were presented based on what the university already expects and the consistent demands shown in the past.

Currently, the second preliminary plan seems to be the “best,” Stephens said, but a shortfall of $24.7 million remains unsolved.

At another presentation that day, Vice Provost David Dowell stressed that there is no “best” scenario.

“There is not a dodge-the-bullet scenario here,” he said.

Stephens said CSULB was able to direct funding from salaries to education this year due to faculty and staff furloughs, which were not considered in any of the 2010-11 budget scenarios.

“That was a short-term solution to a permanent problem,” Stephens said.

Current furlough agreements expire June 30, 2010, while furloughs for next school year will be decided between individual unions and the California State University system.

Stevens discussed the role of student fees, noting that while $17 million was generated from fee increases, only two-thirds of every fee dollar goes to the university to cover costs. The other one-third goes to financial aid.

“This year if we’d tried to cover costs with just student fees, we’d have a 100 percent fee increase,” Stephens said. “Not gonna happen.”

One goal CSULB aims to accomplish is achieving the target numbers of full-time equivalent students (FTES) to maximize incoming state funds.

FTES does not equal the number of students attending CSULB, but the combined number of units taken from all students divided by 12.

Currently, CSULB receives $5,252 for every FTES. CSULB, being an impacted university, has always reached its FTES target, but both Stephens and Dowell emphasized the importance of that number.

“It makes the students an inescapable centerpiece,” Dowell said.

Because of the system of FTES, Dowell said he is “mindful” that answers are not always obvious. He stressed avoiding “ideas that won’t address budget problems” or are too inefficient to do so.

“We could reform GE all day long and it won’t save us money, since we are in a FTE-driven environment,” he said.

Despite hard times, Stephens was proud to announce that CSULB used 54.3 percent of its budget to invest in classroom studies despite cutting costs by nearly 11 percent this year. According to a national report, colleges throughout the U.S. are investing in student instruction on an average of more than 3 percent less than CSULB.

“Our students really have been getting their classes compared to other campuses,” Stephens said. “Academic Affairs, deans and department chairs have been very responsive when they heard of problems and have added sections to the best of their abilities.”

Cutting classes is not easy since most departments are impacted, Dowell said.

He added that although planning for reductions is “painful,” it is important to maintain “efficiency” on campus by cutting while continuing to meet student needs.

“What may seem to be essential now may not be essential next year,” Dowell said.

CSULB has already seen programs suspended this year, such as the Kaleidoscope festival, which has been held annually in the spring. While the event attracts thousands of visitors per year, the university will be saving $125,000.

As CSULB continues to wait alongside other CSUs for the board of trustees to finalize a budget proposal to send upstate in November, Dowell is hopeful for the future of CSULB as he refers to the nation’s rising economy within the past few months.

“Six months ago, it was not clear to anyone, including experts, whether we were heading for a 1930s-style global recession,” he said. “Now, it seems clear that we are not. That’s a huge shift in our prospect. If we have a future, we will continue to commit to excellence.”

Dowell acknowledged that it may take years for solid improvements to appear. Dowell reminded the campus that departments need to work together get through the hard times.

“I don’t think we have sugar-coated the situation we are facing next year,” Dowell said. “And transparency is what we are trying to do.”

Jacob Anderson, a sophomore Japanese and international studies major, also asked if a new 140-unit cap will affect double majors and students who need to study full time in order to receive financial aid.

“If courses aren’t offered and I end up taking any class just to be full time so I can receive aid, those units will be counted into my 140 units, even though I just took them to be full time,” he said.

Dowell replied that it should not dramatically affect students if they see advisers regularly.

“You’ll always have the opportunity to talk to someone and say, ‘This is my circumstance,’ ” Dowell said.

Stevens and Dowell closed with a message to remain optimistic.

“Morale is the best commodity we have, and we must not squander that,” Dowell said.

For the latest CSULB budget updates, visit the Budget Central Web page


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