CSU budget cuts take a toll on students

Cynthia Gomez

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The current budget cuts in the California State University system have had far-reaching effects on many CSU students and the crisis is expected to worsen next fall.

While some students have not experienced the budget cuts first-hand, others already dealing with the results are sharing how the situation has affected them.

Some professors are encouraging students to send a message to state legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to help stop budget cuts in higher education, and to let unaware students know about the crisis.

Current CSUN student Danny Santana, 19, who is double-majoring in history and Chicana/o studies, said he has been affected by the CSU budget cuts this year because of the 10 percent student fee hike and not being able to afford on-campus housing.

‘I know last year, I was able to afford living on campus and now ‘mdash; everything, the price of housing, has gone up. Tuition, of course, definitely has gone up,’ Santana said. ‘My financial aid was able to cover my housing (last year) but this year it was only able to cover the first two months and I had off-campus housing, which was a lot cheaper and financial aid wasn’t able to cover that.’

Santana said even while having a job, he was not able to afford housing and now has to drive from home to the university.

‘I’m actually commuting right now from South Central all the way here to CSUN,’ Santana said. ‘It’s a three-hour bus drive and that’s without traffic.”

Since many of the classes have been cancelled, Santana said he would not be able to graduate from CSUN in four years. He now expects to graduate in five years.

‘I know I still haven’t finished my core requirements for history and I’m already on my second year and even after this year, I’m not going to have my core requirements for my history major done with because just of the lack of availability of classes,’ Santana said.’ ‘ ‘


Santana is part of Students for Quality Education, an organization on campus that opposes the CSU budget cuts. Santana, along with other SQE members, attends rallies and protests that oppose the budget cuts to higher education. Santana recently attended the rally that took place at the Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 18-19 in order to let state legislators and CSU officials know how the organization feels about the current CSU budget crisis and to stop the budget cuts from continuing.

‘Personally, why I’m going is pretty much in defense of my education,’ Santana said.

‘The reason why we (SQE) were at the Board of Trustees is to first of all keep (Chancellor Charles B. Reed) accountable because he gave $31.3 million back to the state, so that’s money we really needed that we could of used,’ said Santana. ‘So that’s just a shame because he already knows that we’re really going through a financial crisis and (the CSU Board of Trustees is) talking about bigger cuts, so we don’t know what this means for students.’

Darrell Tripp Jordan, a bio-technology major, opposes the budget cuts in the CSU system because the state will lose many future leaders.

‘Ten thousand lawyers, administrators, great teachers, all these people for the future’hellip; They come from the CSU system,’ Jordan said. ‘So we’re losing a lot of great future people.’

‘A lot of good students that couldn’t afford (going to a university) are not going to be here and then they have to take that long run,’ Jordan said. ‘People get stuck at city colleges and I don’t like that at all.”

Many professors and lecturers are aware of the budget crisis that is affecting many of their students. Monica Turner, a Pan African studies lecturer, encouraged her Pan African studies 151 classes (PAS 151) to attend the rallies at the Board of Trustees meeting in November. Since PAS 151 is a public speaking course, the rallies were an opportunity for students to speak out about the current CSU budget cuts, Turner said.

‘I teach public speaking and to me we have to move beyond speaking into action and this was a way of giving them (students) exposure and practical experience on how to use their voices to affect change, so it was a very powerful project to take them out of the artificiality of the classroom and give them real life experience,’ Turner said.’

Turner has heard many of her students share their stories on how the budget cuts have influenced their lives.

‘I’m extremely concerned about the students because many of the students, the constituency that I serve, come from impoverished backgrounds and education is the ticket out of poverty,’ Turner said.

Turner said she was inspired by her student’s stories.

‘I think what really inspired me the most is when a couple students said to me, ‘Professor Turner, I will not be able to come next semester,” Turner said. ‘They’re already in debt.

They’re already working and now they’re being forced back into the workforce with limited skills, no degree, and student loans. I think that’s unconscionable.’

‘Some of these (students) catch as many as five buses from the inner city to get here. They’re working two jobs. They’re strapped financially,’ Turner said.’

Turner expressed her thoughts on Gov. Schwarzenegger proposing the budget cuts to the CSU system.

‘For the first time we’re closing the doors to the CSU system,’ Turner said. ‘I don’t think that’s the legacy that Governor Schwarzenegger wants to leave office with, that he basically contributed to the undoing of a major revenue in the California economy.’

‘I understand that there’s a sense of urgency and that maybe we’re trying to figure out how to go about doing this, but I don’t think closing the door to opportunity is the way,’ Turner said.

Turner’s PAS 151 classes, along with the SQE, joined on Thursday and Friday on campus to encourage CSUN students and others to fill out fax forms that will be sent to the Gov. Schwarzenegger in opposing his proposed budget cuts to the CSU system.’ ‘

One of Turner’s students who became aware of the crisis in the CSU system this semester is first-time freshmen Alejandro Hernandez, double-majoring in graphic design and Chicana/o studies.

Hernandez said he had many reasons other than being in Turner’s PAS 151 class to be out on campus encouraging students to fill out fax forms.

‘As a student, I’m out here because I pay out of my pocket so tuition increase is going to affect me greatly,’ Hernandez said. ‘Right now, I have to work two jobs. I have to help pay my rent. I have to help my mom pay her rent because she’s only working one job because of the economy.’

‘(People) are losing their jobs so I have to do my part by just coming here and spreading the word because a lot of the students aren’t aware of what’s going on and I see it as like, ‘Wow, how can these students not be aware of what’s going on?’ and I just want to spread the awareness,’ Hernandez said.’ ‘

Hernandez explained why education is needed today.

‘If you look at it, education helps people,’ Hernandez said. ‘When someone’s educated, they don’t go to the streets to do violence. They don’t go to the streets to tag. When people become educated, they know what’s better. Just by educating people there will be less people getting into trouble, less people going to prisons.’

‘He’s (Gov. Schwarzenegger) putting money to the prison system so he wants people to go to prisons. He wants people not to be educated,’ Hernandez said.

The state of California currently faces an $11.2 billion budget deficit that is expected to increase to $24 billion by 2010. Because of the state’s budget deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature has to cut about $97.3 million from the CSU budget. The $97.3 million budget cut comes after Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed a $66.3 million mid-year budget cut in addition to a $31.3 million one-time cut that was approved by the Board of Trustees in October, said the CSU.

It is expected more budget cuts will be proposed for the 20
09-2010 CSU academic year.’ This would mean the CSU system would have to turn away 10,000 students to all 23 CSU campuses. This comes after CSU applications for fall 2009 are up about 20 percent from last year. All CSUs have seen a growth of first-time freshmen applications, especially among minority students.

CSUN, a university with a high minority population and a university with a high number of first-time freshmen applicants, will also be affected next fall with the recent budget cuts in the CSU system. CSUN officials say CSUN will turn away roughly 1,100 first-time freshmen for the fall 2009 semester.

CSUN faculty members have heard various estimates of how many first-time freshmen have been turned away from CSUN so far ‘- the current highest estimation is about 600.

Provost Harry Hellenbrand said he thinks the number of students expected be turned away from the campus will end up about 4 or 5 percent lower than the estimated 1,100.

Although 10,000 first-time freshmen will be rejected next fall, Santana and Hernandez encourage first-time freshmen applicants not to give up in higher education.

‘I definitely encourage first-time freshmen to get involved because they (Gov. Schwarzenegger and state legislators) denied access to 10,000 (incoming freshmen) and that’s just crazy because this is the first-time Cal States have decided to do that,’ Santana said. ‘The Cal States actually said, ‘Sorry, but we cannot afford to keep you in the university. Even though you did it, we cannot afford to keep you.”

‘It’s not your fault,’ Hernandez said. ‘First of all, you can’t blame yourself for not getting into the institution. I would say blame the governor.’

Students who oppose the budget cuts in the CSU system are encouraged to fill out fax forms. To find out more information on how to fill out a fax form, how to join an organization like the SQE, and to learn more about the proposed budget cuts to the CSU system, visit www.allianceforthecsu.org or www.calfac.org.