The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Struggle over passing budget leaves CSU in uncertainty

Lawmakers ousted one Senate Republican leader and held an emergency Capitol sleepover but have failed to reach an agreement on how to fix the $42 billion budget deficit. Meanwhile, the California State University system continues to wait in uncertainty to find out its share of spending cuts.

The CSU has not only been forced to cut enrollment by 10,000, but is also postponing construction projects, restricting employees’ travel and freezing any new hiring to all positions not related to university operations, such as new professors, as a result of the state’s budget deficit.

Michael McManus, CSUN vice president of Marketing and Communications, said the university is still not sure how much it will lose under the governor’s 2009-2010 budget plan and that the university is ‘trying to be prudent and trim back during this period of uncertainty,’ said McManus.

‘It depends on what happens in Sacramento,’ said McManus.’ ‘Needless to say, we’re keenly interested in the outcome and we’ve been watching’hellip;But as of now, there is no outcome.’

The CSU system has already accumulated $215 million in underfunding from the state over the past 10 years, said Harry Hellenbrand, CSUN provost and vice president of academic affairs.’

‘The real hard part is we just don’t have any certainty’ on how much CSUN will lose or gain as a result of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget, Hellenbrand said.

Two and a half years ago, CSUN began setting aside two percent of its budget of roughly $140 million ‘- giving the university about $7 million for an emergency cushion ‘- when it became obvious that the economy was going downhill, said Hellenbrand.

‘This is money that we would have otherwise spent on equipment, we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop so we can soften the blow for a year or two,’ Hellenbrand said.’ CSUN is able to support itself if the CSU’s budget is slashed by five to seven percent, he said, but ‘when we get beyond that, we get problems.’

McManus said although CSUN made ‘every effort to plan ahead,’ he is unable to predict what the university will spend its rainy day funds on first because the state budget remains unapproved.

‘Now we have to see what the state comes back with and that is the great unknown,’ said McManus.

If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2009-2010 budget is approved, a previous $31.3 million mid-year cut made in October of 2008 will be restored to the CSU.’ CSUN’s loss from those cuts would be roughly $2.2 million, according to a Frequently Asked Questions statement from the Office of the President’s website.’ Under the proposed 2009-2010 budget, the CSU would still be hit with a loss of $15.8 million in support from the state’s General Fund, leaving CSUN with a loss of $1 million, according to the FAQ.

But until Legislature approves the new plan, CSU officials said they are still uncertain on those numbers, adding that the amounts are only conservative estimates.

Teresa Ruiz, spokesperson for the CSU, said the governor’s proposal to cut an additional $66.3 million for 2008-2009 will remain in place, but that the university system was still waiting for news from Sacramento on the new budget.’ Until lawmakers decide on a budget solution, any numbers on spending cuts are still proposed and not set in stone, said Ruiz.

The state is also unable to fund $217.3 million for the Governor’s Higher Education Compact, which also includes support for a 2.5 percent enrollment increase.’ ‘

According to the CSU’s 2008-2009 budget summary, the system would have received $82.2 million to fund 8,572 full-time equivalent students (FTES).’ Under that increase, the CSU would have also generated about $31.2 million in new tuition revenue for 2009-2010, but because of budget cuts, the CSU not only is unable to accommodate for the enrollment increase under the compact, it must also turn away 10,000 incoming students because of lack of funding by the state.

Hellenbrand said he is seeing the disastrous effects of the economic crisis on CSUN’s students and staff.

‘Demand for enrollment is up because of the economic crisis,’ said Hellenbrand.’ ‘People are out of work,’ he said, which pushes them to seek higher education in order to find better jobs.’ CSUN has been asked to turn away about 1,800 FTES, said Hellenbrand, which will result in an estimated loss of $6.5 million.’ One-third of tuition revenue is held for financial aid, further affecting available funds for students.’ Additionally, the 2009-2010 state budget will cut funding to CalGrants by $87.5 million.

Students may feel the hit of the budget cuts as they go to more crowded classrooms, Hellenbrand said.’ Because of the CSU’s hiring freeze, there are fewer professors to accommodate more classes.

In early January of this year, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed announced an immediate salary freeze for all positions at the vice president level and above, including his own, for 2009-2010.’ The CSU Board of Trustees came under fire in 2007 after they voted for a roughly 12 percent pay raise for executives, which includes campus presidents and top system administrators, including Reed.’ The chancellor received a pay increase of $44,500, raising his salary to $421,500, while CSUN president Jolene Koester’s salary was increased by $29,775, raising her salary up to $295,000, the Sundial reported in September of 2007.

Last November, the CSU’s Board of Trustees approved a budget request of $5.1 billion for 2009-2010, with $3.5 billion to come from the state’s General Fund and $1.6 to come from tuition revenue.’ In 2008-2009, the CSU’s budget was about $4.7 billion, with $2.97 coming from the General Fund and $1.5 billion from tuition.’

Ideally, funding for the CSU is to come from the state’s General Fund and revenues from tuition, said Ruiz.’ However, if the CSU is left with a budget gap to fill from lack of state funding, the system must look to other sources to mend that hole, said Ruiz, but what those sources will be is still uncertain.

‘Everything is ‘proposed, proposed, proposed’ by this point,’ said Ruiz.’ ‘We’re all waiting.’

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