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ASI president clears up common misconceptions about the CSU and state budget

In Monday’s issue, students received the first installment of a three-part series on budgets and fees. This series is a collaborative effort between ASI and The Collegian.  It is our hope that this series will help students become more informed about the budgets and fees that affect their student experiences.

I’m happy to say, its working!  We’ve had questions from several students who have gone through the most recent article on the state and CSU budget and found some of the information to be confusing or contradictory. I appreciate the curiosity.  It serves our campus well to have students taking an active interest in the things that affect their education. I’d like to answer some of those questions and dispel any myths or rumors that might be circulating.

How does decreasing enrollment help students?

Why we are confused: Students pay a majority of the cost of their own education, with the state funding less than half the cost of sending a student to a CSU. It seems, then, that increasing enrollment would help the university’s budget issue because more students would be paying the university.

Answer: Students are paying a majority of the cost of their education, but they are not paying the entire cost like they would at a private college, or any institution without state aid. The portion that students are not paying is covered by the state.  But state funds are not unlimited. The state pays per student up to a certain amount of students — these limits are called enrollment targets. When Fresno State admits more students than its enrollment target, we do not receive funding from the state for any students over that limit. Without the funding from the state, only a portion of the cost of that student to come to Fresno State is covered. Fresno State and other CSUs used to enroll more students than the state paid for because they had enough money in the budget to cover the extra costs — that is no longer the case. So when schools talk about reducing enrollment, what they mean is reducing enrollment to the state’s “target enrollment rate.”

If enrollment is an issue, why are out-of-state students being admitted?

Why we are confused: Students are constantly hearing that the CSU system needs to decrease enrollment, yet we see more and more out-of-state students and international students attending Fresno State.  It seems like Fresno State is giving seats away to students who aren’t from California, limiting opportunities for in-state students.

Answer: International or out-of-state students receive NO state funding, so they pay 100 percent of the cost of their education, and sometimes they pay more than just their direct costs. This means that we can accept an unlimited amount of out-of-state and international students without hurting our budget, and without taking any of the state funding from in-state students. Enrolling out-of-state or international students does not reduce the number of in-state students Fresno State can accept. It is a bit ironic, but it ends up working in favor of in-state students to have out-of-state and international students enrolled in high numbers.

Does the unit cap apply to everyone?

Why we are confused: Students have heard that certain groups of people are not subject to the unit cap and can take more than 16 units per semester.  Students are not sure if these are rumors or not, and do not know what the actual language for the new policy entails.

Answer: The unit cap of 15 to 17 units per student per semester is the language that the CSU campuses, including Fresno State, have received from the Chancellor’s office. It is a system-wide mandate and the only system-wide exception is for seniors who have applied for graduation. Discussion of other possible exceptions are ongoing, and the Chancellor’s office is considering allowing each university to submit a list of the exceptions that are appropriate for their respective campuses to be reviewed and either adopted or denied. On Fresno State’s campus, we are looking at exceptions — namely, engineering, lab sciences and honors students. The unit cap is particularly difficult for Fresno State students because Fresno State requires MORE general education units prior to graduation than some other CSUs. This is because Fresno State requires its students to take an extra general education class that provides a multicultural or international perspective in order to prepare students for living and working in the Central Valley and in California, which are extremely diverse and representative of many different backgrounds and cultures.

Selena Farnesi is the president of Associated Students, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @SMFarnesi.

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