There’s a lot at stake for California State Universities on the November ballot.
Attending one of the university systems’ 23 campuses could be more expensive, tougher to get in to or tuition could even be reduced, depending on what voters decide for the pending tax measure.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s ballot measure on the November ballot would increase the sales tax and taxes on upper-income earners. If approved, the measure could generate $8.5 billion in revenues and funds would be set aside for education, including the Cal State system. If the tax fails there are automatic reductions for education spending, referred to as trigger cuts.
A discussion about two options for what to do if the proposed tax measure fails will take place today during the CSU board of trustees meeting in Long Beach. Though no decision on what to cut will be made, trustees are expected to discuss the potential cuts to student services or even employee pay and benefits in order to make up the funding gap.
“We’ve reached a point we its nothing but difficult tradeoffs involved by having to confront real possibility of the trigger cuts,” said Robert Turnage, assistant vice chancellor of budget.
The CSU system has cut roughly $750 million from its budget over the past several years. Additionally, last November, CSU trustees approved a base tuition increase to cover some of those cuts, bringing the cost to students per semester to $2,985 — a 9 percent increase over the spring 2012 semester. If Brown’s November tax measure is defeated at the polls, CSU faces an additional $250 million cuts.
The first option being considered for if the tax fails would increase the cost of tuition by roughly $150 a semester, which is a 5 percent increase, starting with the spring 2013 classes. A reduction to employee pay and benefits by 2.5 percent would also apply in this scenario.
“We think it’s a very modest and balanced approach,” Turnage said of the tuition fee increase. “The balance of that will require an expenditure reduction. With 85 percent of our expenditures going to pay and benefits, we can’t make large reductions without looking at that area.”
The second option would keep the price of tuition flat, but reduce enrollment by 1.5 percent or 6,000 students systemwide. This option would also require a 5 percent pay and benefit reduction to employees.
Turnage said the staff will recommend Tuesday that the board publicly support the governor’s tax measure to avoid any further cuts. A formal decision about how to initiate cuts if the November measures fail will not be made until September.
The board of trustees will also hear a plan about what to do if the tax measure passes. In that case the CSU system will still receive its flat $2.06 billion budget funding, but would receive an additional $125 million from a separate appropriations bill attached to the November tax measure. That $125 million would only be released if the tax increases are adopted and the CSU trustees agree to return base tuition to 2011-12 rates of $2,736 a semester.
Any payments made for the fall semester would be refunded.
San Francisco State University President Robert A. Corrigan, who is retiring after more than two decades at the helm of the college, said voters must act because higher education is threatened by a “catastrophic loss” in state funding.
“Californians need to recognize what is at stake,” Corrigan said. “Without access to a well-educated workforce, those businesses will leave our state — further eroding our tax base… now is the time for a vigorous reinvestment in public higher education.”