May 31, 2020

Calif. budget crisis may lead to more cuts

President Welty addressed faculty and staff last
Wednesday about the current budget crises and how
it will pan out in the coming fiscal year.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

In front of the Spring Assembly for faculty and staff, Fresno State President John Welty spent nearly an hour last Wednesday outlining the stark realities facing the university in light of yet another round of cuts to the education budget made by the California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown.

The university would lose $11 million in the 2012-13 year if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax-increase ballot measures fail to pass in November.

Welty told the assembly that during the past three-and-a-half years, state funding to the CSU system declined sharply, forcing austerity measures and tuition and fee increases. Funding to Fresno State alone is down $47.6 million since 2008. These cuts have forced his administration to reduce faculty and staff by 300 members with corresponding reductions to time devoted to student advising, tutoring and career services. He reminded the assembled faculty and staff that pay rates had been frozen since 2007.

Welty highlighted the drastic increases students and their parents have to overcome, pointing out that when he first came to Fresno State almost 20 years ago, only 4 percent of the college budget was funded by tuition, but now 49 percent of the budget is funded by students.

After warning of possible cuts to Pell Grant funding by the federal government, Welty moved on to the cuts Brown had announced just before the holiday break due to state tax revenue shortfalls, but said that the statewide undergraduate tuition fee increase of $500 million set for fall 2012 should just barely cover the cuts.

When asked to comment on the contrast between the state education budget versus what is budgeted for prisons, Welty said: “…it is a travesty that the amount of reduction that occurred this year in the prison system [budget] was actually in the neighborhood of, I believe, $30 million compared to $100 million for the California University system [budget]. Give me a break.

“I think that it is a tragedy, when the amount our state invests in prisons exceeds the amount it invests in public higher education,” he added.

Brown’s 2012-13 budget allots the lowest amount to CSUs in 15 years, yet CSUs enroll 95,000 more students today than in 1997.

However, even this lowered budget could be lowered further causing a shortfall of $11 million if the tax increase on the ballot in November is not approved by California voters. Not knowing how much funding the state will provide leaves school officials with a dilemma, Welty explained.

The university’s base budget has to be set months earlier, before the fall semester that starts the 2012-13 school year begins.

“We will have to be creative, the more creative we can be, the better we can serve our students,” Welty replied, when asked how the university would manage this contingency.

In concluding comments, Welty made a plea to the assembled to vote for the upcoming ballot initiatives that will “directly impact our future,” a plea he repeated afterward during a news conference when asked what students can do to combat higher costs.

“Vote. It’s time for us to stand up for higher education,” Welty said.

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