For several hours Tuesday afternoon, a 25-member board of trustees sat at the round tables in the Cal State University Chancellor’s Office to deliberate on an operating budget plan, which could potentially be hinged upon yet another tuition hike.
After an announcement that the budget’s plan needed additional funding, board members were quick to express their frustration.
“We have a $6.4 billion operating budget, and we’re planning on new revenue between 1.5 and 1.8 percent,” Vice Chair Adam Day said. “That’s fiscally irresponsible…Anyone else would be out of business and bankrupt…This is offering students hollow promises that we can’t fulfill.”
The projected lack of funding from the state suggested one possible short-term solution to fill the budget request: a tuition increase for fall 2018.
Student board member Emily Hinton said she was disappointed with the budget proposal.
“This is our minimum budget,” Hinton said. “And if we don’t get it, there is a tuition increase and if we don’t have a tuition increase, we cut the graduation initiative when we have all identified the graduation initiative as our priority.”
Ryan Storm, assistant vice chancellor for budget, suggested preparing for the possibility that the budget request would not be fully funded by the state.
“In the near term, we must begin the process that leaves open the option of a tuition increase for the fall of 2018,” Storm said. “We will start the consultation with students later this month.”
Disappointment over the current state of the budget proposal stemmed from a lack of funding from Governor Jerry Brown. According to the expenditure report as read by Storm, the trustees are projecting Brown will allocate $102 million for Cal State’s operating budget. This is $55 million less than he proposed a year ago.
“This creates a significant funding challenge year by year,” Storm said. “If we receive more funding from the state, we could increase our overall enrollment by 1 percent. And if that were to happen, those additional students will pay tuition and we estimate that would yield about $19.9 million of new revenue.”
Among the systemwide expenses in the budget were the Graduation Initiative 2025, 1 percent increase to enrollment, employee compensation, facilities and infrastructure needs and mandatory costs. The projected total of all elements is near $283 million, excluding a $17.4 million inflationary cost.
Such components of the budget were emphasized by Storm as “[representative of] the board’s values and priorities in adopting the 2018-19 budget plan.”
The board praised the successes of the $75 million initiative.
Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley said she was pleased with the efforts so far. According to her, in 2016-17 the four-year graduation rate increased by 50 percent with much of the gain attributed to underrepresented minorities and Pell grant eligible students.
“Past and future additional initiative funding is really critical for the Beach,” Conoley said. “It has fueled significant gains and without it, it’ll be financially challenging or even impossible to keep moving the needle on student success.”
Comparatively, Cal State Fresno President Joseph Castro emphasized graduation improvements with the initiative. He said that as a result of the program, two-year transfer graduation rate went up from 22 percent to 27.5 percent in two years.
Not all trustees were on board with the high priority of the program. Board member Douglas Faigin didn’t believe the graduation initiative nor the tuition increase were real alternatives to filling in the gap of needed money.
“I think we hope that the alternatives would not be either tuition or atom bomb, but out of $7 billion, there are conventional weapons to look at as real,” Faigin said. “I don’t believe that [those alternatives] have to be either tuition or the graduation initiative.”