Gov. Brown’s CSU budget proposal short by $97 million

Darion Johnston, the Associated Students director or legislative affairs, went to the Capitol on March 2 to advocate for increased state funding for the California State University system. Photo courtesy of Chico State.

6,900 qualified students could be receiving rejection letters next winter if the state does not come through with the $97 million requested by the California State University system.

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a 2015-16 budget of $119 million for the CSU, while the Board of Trustees says that $268 million is needed to operate at full capacity.

If the $97 million gap is not bridged, state universities can expect to see an increase of temporary faculty, deferred maintenance and decreased enrollment, said Darion Johnston, the Associated Students director of legislative affairs.

Johnston, along with six other A.S. officers, visited the state Capitol on March 2 to advocate for the additional funding.

“The idea was to show our legislators here at Chico the real student experience,” Johnston said. “It gives you a face to who your decisions are affecting. These are the students it will impact.”

A decrease in tenure-track professors at the university is a reflection of the instability in the CSU budget and directly affects students.

Temporary faculty, or lecturers, have less responsibility and stability with varying benefits in comparison to tenure-track professors, said Dana Ferris, a professor in the writing program at UC Davis. Lecturers can be hired on a semester-to-semester basis or however long the university decides to keep them under contract.

“Some (lecturers) are often teaching at two or three different places, which turns out to be not so good for students,” Ferris said. “You’re not going to be able to do your best work if you’re spread so thin with no job security.”

Students could also be impacted by the continuation of deferred maintenance. The CSU system has wracked up $1.8 billion in deferred maintenance, Johnston said.

“We’ve had elevators drop on people,” she said. “This is absolutely not the fault of anyone on our campus — this is an issue of funding. We don’t have enough funding and this is something systemwide.”

The governor’s current budget allows for an enrollment increase of 1 percent or 3,000 to 4,000 students. Next year, the CSU system is expected to receive 20-30,000 applications from qualified students, with half accepting admission and the other half being turned away because of lack of room for enrollment growth in the budget. The $97 million would increase enrollment by 12,000 to 15,000 students.

“It’s supposed to be a system that’s accessible to everyone who meets a few basic requirements,” Johnston said. “We’re not able to fulfill the promise to families who have students who want to go to a CSU.”

California State Universities prepare more graduates in business, engineering, and health and public administration than any other form of higher education in California, according to the governor’s 2014-15 budget summary.

By the year 2025, California is expected to be short 1 million college-educated graduates.

Debate over state funding has begun in the Legislature, but a budget is still yet to be determined.

“We’re asking the state,” Johnston said, “including the governor and especially the Legislature to come up with a number that fills that gap.”

Jenice Tupolo can be reached at [email protected] or @JayTupolo on Twitter.