UPDATE (9/19/12 at 3:27 p.m.): The story has been changed to reflect that Jillian Ruddell is not a student trustee of CSUF. She is from Cal State University, Chico.
The CSU Board of Trustees met Tuesday to discuss the possible outcomes if Proposition 30 passes in November, in addition to ratifying a faculty contract that has been battled out for two years.
Cal State Fullerton President Mildred Garcia, Ed.D., described California higher education as a public good, one that gives back to the community of the state and to all its interests. Furthermore, the state of California is in “peril,” she said, if its citizens are not educated.
“I think nobody’s happy with what would happen if Prop. 30 fails,” said Garcia. “Everybody’s going to be hurt–not only the CSU, the system and everyone who works in it, but also the citizens of California are going to be hurt.”
She called the current educational budget crisis the “civil rights issue of our time” in its magnitude and importance.
Proposition 30 is a bill that would fund K-12 schools and community colleges first, with public universities and other social programs taking the leftovers.
The measure would increase personal income taxes for earners over $250,000 for the next seven years and raise sales tax by a quarter-cent for four years. It aims to raise $6 billion to stop automatic spending reductions that would take place if the proposition is not passed.
Acting CSU Chancellor Charles Reed initiated a three-scenario contingency plan if Proposition 30 passes or fails.
The first scenario, if it fails, would institute a 5 percent tuition increase, amounting to about $150 more per student per semester. This will, at its bare minimum, keep the budget where it currently is.
The second scenario, if the measure passes, would roll back tuition prices by reimbursing students the $498 that was demanded almost a year ago.
“This is really the biggest challenge the CSU has ever had to face,” Reed said in his opening statements about the budget. “The CSU has been in a prolonged financial crisis.”
“For the last five years, we have cut our general fund, operating budget by $1.1 billion. That is not insignificant,” he said.
The third plan is to eliminate nine upper-division general education classes to reduce the number of units to graduate to 120 for most CSU programs.
Audience members who were granted a hearing had serious doubts about the nuances of the plan. They were mainly concerned with programs that by default require more time to complete, such as architecture and engineering, which are high-unit degrees.
Reed cited dire circumstances that the CSU has had to overcome, which resulted in a cut of 3,000 faculty and staff in addition to little-to-no raises since 2007.
The need for a contingency plan, said Reed, was so that the CSU could have a response ready when the outcome of Proposition 30 is decided in November.
“The reason that I think that we need this contingency is we need to give students, parents, and the public the knowledge so that they can anticipate what may or may not happen to the CSU,” Reed said.
He called the contingency plan a “trigger on a trigger” as a way of preempting California voters’ decision in November.
Moreover, Reed said the CSU would have to turn away about 20,000 “qualified” students from being accepted and that the reputation of quality and access the CSU has demonstrated would be devastatingly affected.
Twenty thousand students is the equivalent to the population of Cal State Los Angeles, an entire university in the system, Reed said.
On the table as well was a proposal to charge students whom the board determines have been in college for too long.
This “super senior fee” would require that students who exceeded a total of 150 units pay a sum.
Reed called this a “liberal” cap total and compared it to other states, who have implemented harsher consequences for students.
Robert Turnage, the CSU associate vice chancellor for budget, said last year, when the board raised tuition mid-semester, people were outraged and decided to sue the CSU for inadequate notice for $80 million.
The public was given a chance to speak before formal discussion, and the board heard from students, members of California Faculty Association (CFA), and the California State Student Association (CSSA).
Most expressed grave concerns over the proposition of increasing tuition as a result of Proposition 30.
“It is simply inconceivable that this board would advocate taking an additional $70 million from CSU employees, no matter what the outcome of the election,” said Lillian Taiz, CFA president.
Taiz criticized the Board for telling CSU students, who have already endured dramatic tuition hikes and class shortages, that they will still have to suffer even if the savior-like proposition goes through.
“Even if Prop. 30 passes many, and most likely those least able to pay, will face penalties for being unable to get all of their classes completed in the required time,” Taiz said.
Students and members of CSSA also stated their displeasure with the Board’s current handling of the situation.
“Education should not be a privilege. The Master Plan (for the CSU) has been abandoned. Resources have not been exhausted. We should be putting all our efforts in making sure that Prop. 30 passes,” said John Haberstroh, president of Associated Students Inc. at Cal State Long Beach.
Furthermore, students stated that what troubled them most was this potential fee for those who do not graduate in what the board describes as a timely manner. Many thought it unfair to charge students who may have a higher unit requirement, such as engineering majors, or those who change their major and must stay longer as a result.
“My feelings are that current students should be exempt and future students should be educated,” said Jillian Ruddell, one of two student trustees on the Board.
Earlier in the meeting, behind closed doors, the board hashed out the rest of the agreement with the CFA that has been a long, drawn-out process that included walk-outs and strikes that are now officially over.
“We didn’t make as much improvement as we might have liked in addressing workload problems that faculty have. But for the first time, we did get management to concede that there is a workload problem,” said Kevin Wehr, CFA capitol chapter president.
He said the road to an agreement with the CSU was a long one, and the two-year negotiation process was like “pulling teeth.”
The proposals that were debated and discussed are set to be voted on Wednesday.