Discussion about the California State University budget continued last week during an informational teleconference held by CSU Public Affairs.
With the recent victory of the salary cap for all new CSU presidents, it was time to turn attention to the vulnerability of CSU government funding. Currently, Gov. Jerry Brown’s CSU budget proposal for the new fiscal year calls for a “flat budget” that would decrease funding by $750 million. In addition, there is a $200 million trigger cut that can be avoided if Brown’s new tax initiative is passed. This initiative would increase the California sales tax a half of a percentage point and the income taxes of those earning $250,000 or more for five years.
Liz Chapin, the CSU Public Affairs representative, said “The $200 million trigger cut would reduce CSU state funding to the lowest level it’s been since 1996. However, today the CSU enrolls 95,000 more students.”
Students know that a lack of funds could lead to several equally damaging consequences. Employment and enrollment could be reduced, which is a grim option because San Diego State just broke records for its number of Fall 2012 applicants.
A tuition increase is another possible solution. Although the increase of $500 in the fall is nearly guarenteed, the board said this would only occur if all other options had been exhausted.
Crucial university programs are not the only victims in the budget reduction; this cut would also mean a cut in financial aid. In Brown’s 2012-2013 budget proposal, a GPA of 3.25 must be met to receive Cal Grant A. The GPA is currently set at 3.0. Cal Grant A is specifically designated to assist students entering a four-year university, though those attending community college can defer the grant for two years.
Fortunately, the allotted amount for the Pell Grant has been maintained at $5,550. However, it is now only available to students for 12 semesters instead of 18. Most importantly, the six-month grace period given to those with student loans has been temporarily eliminated; interest fees will start to accumulate immediately after a student graduates.
“With all these changes, financial aid has just now become a line item in the budget instead of being something incredibly essential like it is,” Stephanie Thara, web communications specialist at CSU, said.
While many students are lamenting the foreboding decreases to the budget, the CSU system is teaming up with the California State Student Association to fight these cuts, especially those directly affecting the Cal Grant.
Executive Director of CSSA Miles Nevin commented on the partnership by stating, “We feel and we’ve come to an agreement that if we work together in representing the CSU’s needs and interests both at a local and capital level, that we will be better off in the end. We have a higher likelihood of getting what we need from the state.”
In December, the President of CSU Long Beach F. King Alexander also met with President Barack Obama to discuss the issue of college affordability.
These are just two examples of the efforts being made toward gaining back state financial support on the CSU’s road to recovery.