CSU budget cuts affect enrollment

Savannah Dawkins

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version of the California State University budget for the 2008-2009 year includes a $312 million budget cut, Dr. Harold Hellenbrand said at the University Planning and Budget Group meeting on Jan. 11.

Hellenbrand, who is the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said the exact effects of the budget cuts on CSUN’s $302 million budget are still unknown.

A low range cut for the school would be $7 million to $9 million, a middle-range cut would be $12 million and the worst-case scenario would be a $21 million cut to CSUN. In order to come up with $12 million, CSUN could need to accept another 150 non-resident students or enact a 10 percent fee increase on current students, Hellenbrand said.

However, the CSU system is opposed to further fee increases and generally discourages non-resident enrollment, but without one or the other enrollment to the university must be cut, Hellenbrand said.

The budget cuts will affect future students who want to get into CSUN, he said. The cuts will also lead to decreased services and more impacted classes.

It’s hard to tell where the cuts will be made, Hellenbrand said. The UPBG will look at what will affect students the least.

The UPBG met to discuss the 2008-2009 budget, along with the new Performing Arts Center, Academic Affairs plans and enrollment planning for the upcoming academic year.

“The budget season is enormously complicated,” Hellenbrand said. “One thing that I really think you don’t want to lose sight of as we go over the budget the next couple of months is what our large, long-term commitments are.”

Long-term investments such as the Performing Arts Center and future housing projects are important because CSUN needs revenue generators, he said.

Thomas McCarron, administrator-in-charge of Administration and Finance, said they hope to break ground this November on 150 townhouses located on north campus for CSUN faculty and staff.

Other UPBG members agreed that housing is critical to sustainability and agreed with the goal of becoming a more residential campus.

The Performing Arts Center will cost $125 million and take 25 months to build, with construction possibly startingthis April, McCarron said.

Hellenbrand said the state owes CSUN a 1,200-seat auditorium and that in addition to being a resource for the San Fernando Valley community; the PAC facilities can also be used for campus music and theater classes and productions.

Academic issues were also addressed at the meeting.

“A great deal of concern with critical thinking and writing skills” has risen this year, Hellenbrand said.

“We’re doing a wonderful job counting the trees and we’re doing a great job of missing the forests,” Hellenbrand said, referring to the questionable effectiveness of the several hundred learning objectives held by 56 different departments at CSUN.

Hellenbrand also touched upon graduation rates and retention issues. “We want to improve but we’re doing pretty damn good by national standards right now,” he said.

The national standard first and second year retention rate is 74 percent and CSUN is currently at 76 percent with many students who leave CSUN also continuing their education later on at other universities.