Communication department chair holds meeting to discuss unit caps

Stefanie De Leon Tzic

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A meeting to discuss the cap on unit registration, why classes were cut and students inability to add courses was held Friday in the Aronstam Library by the Department of Communications Chair Dr. Bernardo Attias.

The state calculates the number of students enrolled at CSU campuses by the number of units they’re enrolled in, or full-time equivalent students. Fifteen units equals one FTES. The state uses FTES to calculate how much money is given to universities.

Once a university goes over that target and continues to admit students, it will face penalties from the CSU. The money from the additional students’ tuition stays on the campus, rather than going back to the CSU, Attias said.

“Up until recently, the chancellor (Charles B. Reed) had been allowing campuses to go over target and keep that money on campus,” Attias said about the cap, which was implemented this semester.

Now, he is strictly holding that campuses can’t go 3 percent over its target because the campus will be penalized $7 million, Attias said.

Department of Communication Studies Suffers

According to Attias, the communications department was affected more than any other department because of the heavy concentration of General Education courses it offers.

Attias said before the university implemented the cap, the department was told to go over its FTES limit only if it had the capacity. A few days prior to the semester, the chair was notified it had to cut down its number of FTES by about 40 percent – from 900 students to 540.

“We were able to add a few classes at the last minute, so the (overall) cuts roughly amount to about 33 percent,” Attias said. “We captured back about 7 percent of those FTES.”

The Money is There

According to Attias, the enrollment crisis is very much a state budget issue. CSUN could afford to open up classes, but the state has steadily been investing less in education.

“We have the money on campus,” Attias said. “If it was just a matter of ‘can we afford to open more classes,’ we probably can.”

The CSU system has suffered $750 million over the past two years. The CSU board of trustees also approved a 9 percent tuition increase for the 2012-2013 fiscal year last November, in a 9 to 6 vote, according to the Sundial.

“Tuition has been increasing for over a decade and I don’t see that coming down until there’s new priorities in California,” Attias said.
But it’s not just the state’s priority, but also the state politics that are creating this problem, Attias said.

“In terms of the political priorities of the state, we value education when we talk about it, but we don’t see that value playing out in the investment of education,” Attias said.

#FundEduCSUN

Attias advised students to channel their energy into writing to those who make the decisions that affect education, from the university’s Interim President Dr. Harry Hellenbrand, to California state legislators.

Although it will not let students add classes this semester, it will, in the long run, create classes for them, and help stop the systematic divestment from education, he said.

As a result of the meeting, CSUN’s Communication Association and other students have initiated the Fund Education group, which aims to bring awareness to the current crisis through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The group will utilize #FundEdu and #FundEduCSUN on Twitter as their hashtags.

The campaign’s first event is set to take place Feb. 2 at 12 p.m., where several students will convene in front of the Oviatt Library to hand out fliers that inform students of the situation and ask them to send live tweets and Facebook posts to Chancellor Reed, Gov. Jerry Brown and others.

“It’s about the accountability factor,” said Ashley Luke, 21, double major in journalism and Central American studies, who has not been affected by the cap because of her status as a graduating senior. “When I received more emails about the Student Recreational Center (SRC) being open rather than the permission freeze, it makes you think where the priorities are,” she said.