California cut the California State University budget by another 100 million dollars mid-year, which makes the total budget cut for this fiscal year $750 million or a 27% reduction over last year. This brings the budget for the 23 campus system down to 1997-1998 levels (in non-inflation adjusted dollars) even though we currently serve 90,000 more students than we did at that time.
What is the effect of this? On the Stanislaus campus we are suspending enrollment on the 19th, and it may not reopen. We are cutting low-enrollment classes and will likely do away with entire academic programs. Students are struggling to find courses to fill requirements, often graduating a year or more later than anticipated due to lack of classes. Some department offices in the college of natural science are only open part-time because we don’t have the staff to keep them open all the time.
Salaries for faculty and staff have stagnated. As a tenured professor I make less than postdoctoral fellows at my previous place of employment. Administrative assistants start with salaries that qualify them for food stamps (if they are the sole wage earner for a family of 3). The benefits our state has offered have been very good, but they are currently under attack as being overly generous and are likely to be reduced as well.
The demands on our students have been immense. 20 years ago a student could reasonably work full time over the summer and earn enough money to pay tuition, fees, and for textbooks and have enough left over to live frugally over the year. These days a student probably cannot earn enough money from a summer job to cover tuition, fees, and pay for textbooks, not to mention save money to live off of during the semester, so our students have the choice of taking jobs during the academic year, taking out loans, or doing both. Many do both, and end up working 20 or 30 hours a week (some even more) and their work suffers, their degree progress slows, and they become less likely to graduate (if they do graduate they do it later).
If you’re not at the CSU, why should you care? The CSU serves a lot of California citizens. Citizens who are likely to stay in California. Access to a bachelor’s degree means access to higher earning power, which means more tax revenues for the state, which means a faster recovery from this crisis. Higher education is not a burden for this state. It’s an investment. Every dollar invested in the CSU returns $5 to the California economy. Unfortunately it seems like an investment the state is unwilling to make.
We have cut to the bone in our college. There is no fat to trim. I do not know how we will deal with this additional cut.