By Bay City News Service
A plan by the California State University system to freeze spring enrollment for most state residents, but not for out-of-state and international students, has raised concerns that the policy is unfair.
"I am very concerned, and worry at the precedent a policy sets for allowing nonresident admission at the exclusion of California resident admission," Cal State East Bay biology professor Maria Nieto said on Friday. "Such a policy goes against the CSU mission. It's not fair. It's not right," she said.
CSU administrators say, however, that the plan, driven by severe cuts in state funding, is not intended to displace California students and that the number of nonresidents at issue is very small.
"Due to reductions in state funding over the past several years totaling $750 million, CSU closed admissions for spring 2013 except for a limited number of students," said CSU Executive Vice Chancellor Ephraim Smith in a statement on Friday.
"What CSU is not doing is displacing Californians in favor of higher-paying nonresident students and there is no policy of encouraging campuses to do so," he said.
"At their discretion, campuses that have the capacity in under-enrolled programs to admit new nonresident students may choose to do so. However, the number of students in this category is very limited," Smith said.
CSU educates about 427,000 undergraduate and graduate students at 23 campuses statewide. Californian undergraduates pay $5,970 per year and graduate students pay $7,356, with the remainder of their tuition subsidized by state funding.
Nonresidents pay an additional $372 per semester unit, which amounts to an extra $11,160 for a full-time load of 30 units per year. Normally, about 20,000 new students enroll statewide in the spring, but the partial freeze for spring 2013 is expected to reduce the number to the neighborhood of 2,000, according to CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.
Under the plan announced on July 30, admissions will be closed to most California residents except for several groups. One exception is transfer students who enrolled in a streamlined program at a two-year public community college and received a degree known as Associate Degree for Transfer.
Students in that group will be allowed to enroll at 10 campuses deemed to have available space, including San Francisco State, Cal State East Bay and Sonoma State, but not San Jose State, within the Bay Area. But because that program is new, spring admissions of undergraduates in that category will probably be a few hundred, Uhlenkamp said.
Other state residents allowed to apply for the spring term are veterans and graduate students seeking teaching credentials.
"Ongoing reductions in state funding are forcing campuses to reduce enrollment to match the level of available funds," Smith said in the July 30 announcement.
Meanwhile, CSU placed no restrictions on spring term applications by higher-paying out-of-state and international students and left it to up to individual campuses to decide whether to accept them.
Uhlenkamp said the number of nonresidents admitted in the spring is very small, "such a small set of students that it doesn't move the needle either way."
In spring 2011, there were 315 nonresidents among 2,199 new graduate students statewide and 739 out-of-state or international undergraduates among 20,093 new undergraduates, he said.
San Francisco State and San Jose State are accepting nonresident applications, while Cal State East Bay has allowed each department to decide what to do. Nieto said that even though the number may be small, the biology department at the East Bay campus in Hayward has decided not to accept nonresident graduate students this spring because doing so would be discriminatory and send the wrong message for a public institution.
"If there is not adequate funding for a program then it should be closed rather than opting for a policy that clearly discriminates," she said. Jo Volkert, San Francisco State's associate vice-president for enrollment planning and management, said, "We'll be looking at nonresident applications on a case-by-case basis. The numbers are going to be extremely small."
The 30,000-student campus admitted a total of 36 nonresident undergraduates and graduates in the 2011 spring term, she said. "We deal with what we're given for the current situation," she said.
Like other California public services, the CSU system has suffered deep funding cuts as a result of the state's budget crisis. Uhlenkamp said the system's total budget is about $4 billion per year. Several years ago, about $3 billion came from state funding and $1 billion from tuition.
Now, it's closer to 50-50, with state funding providing a little more than $2 billion, and rising tuition accounting for slightly less than $2 billion, he said. Uhlenkamp said the spring admission restrictions will fall most heavily on community college graduates who want to transfer to earn a college degree.
Since most students who attend CSU for four years enter in the fall, the bulk of undergraduates who normally enroll in the spring is transfer students -- 17,896 out of 20,093 in 2011, he said.
"Part of our mission is to provide a place for California community college students after they complete the associate degree. If we shut the door for those students, there's no place for them to go," Uhlenkamp said.
Even with the spring admissions limits, CSU's current budget is based on an assumption that Proposition 30, the tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, will be approved by state voters in November. If the measure is rejected, that will trigger an additional $250 million cut in the current CSU funding.
"What's really going to matter is what happens with the November election. There may be serious consequences for enrollment," Volkert said.
At a meeting at CSU's headquarters in Long Beach Sept. 18 and 19, the system's board of directors is slated to work on a contingency plan for absorbing the additional $250 million trigger cut if the tax measure fails. The options, or combination of options, to be considered include reducing faculty and staff, decreasing pay and benefits, raising tuition and further restricting enrollment.