California State University (CSU) will cancel spring admissions for the 2013 year in an attempt to lower CSU-wide enrollment by 16,000 students. The reduction is part of a drastic cost-cutting effort that has been initiated in response to the recent budget cuts, said CSU officials at a Regents meeting in San Francisco last month.
CSU will have to reduce enrollment by up to 25,000 students in Fall 2013 if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increases are not approved by voters in November, officials added.
“I fear that I will not gain admission to my local CSU if Brown’s tax proposal does not pass,” said David Owen, a junior at San Diego High School. “Without funding they can’t possibly cater to all of the qualified students in the region, including myself.”
Brown’s proposal, informally known as the Millionaire’s Tax, calls for a sales tax increase in order to pull more revenue from high earners, particularly millionaires. Backed by labor unions and students, the plan would raise sales tax by a quarter cent and expire after four years. It would also raise personal income tax for people earning more than $250,000 a year.
State finance officials estimate the tax measure would bring in about $9 billion into the state’s general fund the first year and $7.1 billion each succeeding year.
The 23 CSU campuses, which have collectively faced budget cuts totaling up to $750 million in the past year, will lose $200 million more if the governor’s tax increases are not passed.
Reducing enrollment is the key component of the 417,000-student system’s plan to survive in the wake of more cuts.
The uncertainty of the situation has left CSU administration to guess the number of students it can afford to admit and the number of employees it can afford to pay.
“It’s made planning very difficult — and it’s made serving our students as they ought to be served very challenging,” said Robert Turnage, CSU’s chief budget administrator, during a press conference at the Capitol last week.
CSU’s budget gap stands at half a billion dollars, Turnage added.
Turnage said the CSU system has to have a plan in place to deal with the uncertainty of the election outcome.
“If the CSU waits to see what happens in the election before reacting, then it will be too late,” he said.
He said reducing enrollment is the only practical solution to deal with the potential budget cuts.
“It comes down to either revenue or spending,” he said, adding that the system, which has raised tuition steadily over the past few years, has no plans to ask for additional increases.
Currently, CSU tuition costs $5,472 annually. This is almost double the $2,772 it cost to attend in 2007-08. An increase approved in November will take the total to $5,970 in Fall 2012. Students and others around the state have protested the increases.
“I think it’s pretty clear that the tolerance around the state, the enthusiasm for fee increases, is not there,” Turnage said.
Many students have voiced disappointment that their future is uncertain because of the state’s economic crisis.
“This state has so much wealth, but its not being properly taxed,” said Alma Sanchez, senior biology major at CSU Northridge.
“I hope Brown’s proposition passes; it will be a step in the right direction toward healing the wound created by Proposition 13 in the 70’s,” Sanchez added, referring to the 1978 tax reform that capped property tax at one percent of purchase price and limited yearly increases to 2 percent. Property taxes, which made up more than half of California school budgets prior to Prop 13, only contribute about 20 percent of education costs today.
“Public education needs to be funded through public sources, or taxes,” said Sanchez. “Otherwise I fear the system will fail or become privatized.”
SARA ISLAS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.