2011-08-23 "CSU, community colleges try to cope with cutbacks; Antitax stance will result in fewer skilled graduates" by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
SAN FRANCISCO -- California is witnessing a slow and steady decline of its prized systems of higher education specifically because legislative Republicans have blocked efforts to raise taxes to pay for them, the community college and state university chancellors said Monday in a blunt and sobering back-to-school message.
Both systems together lost $1.3 billion in state funding this year after Republican lawmakers invoked a pledge not to raise taxes, and the Legislature passed a budget with deep cuts.
As a result, community colleges are offering 5 percent fewer courses across all 112 campuses this year, with an unprecedented 670,000 students turned away for lack of space, Chancellor Jack Scott said.
Across CSU's 23 campuses, students will find fewer instructors and more crowded classrooms this year, while library shelves will be left unfilled and roofs allowed to leak, Chancellor Charles Reed said.
California's system is producing fewer skilled graduates than the economy demands, the back-to-school message said.
At the same time, students are paying far more than last year to attend.
They paid $26 a unit at community colleges last year. This fall they'll pay $36 a unit, and Scott said it's likely the price will rise to $46 by January.
CSU students are paying 19 percent more this fall than last: $6,422 vs. $5,390 a year.
"Republicans need to recognize what California needs - and that is a well-educated workforce. You can't get it for nothing," Reed said in a joint appearance with Scott.
"Taxes are the price of civilization," Scott said, quoting the 18th century British statesman Edmund Burke. "We can't have services without revenues."
Transfer program -
Amid the depressing message, the chancellors also delivered some good news: Transferring from community college to CSU just got easier.
Dozens of community college campuses are now offering a new "associate degree for transfer" program specifically for students who want to pursue a bachelor's degree. The idea is to solve a devilish problem: It's not always obvious which community classes are transferable, so thousands of students wind up taking far more than the 120 units required for a bachelor's.
The new system is meant to offer students a clear transfer track, with no more than 60 units at community college and guaranteed admission as a junior at a CSU. The chancellors estimated the transfer program will save $160 million a year when it's fully up and running by educating more students for the same money.
This fall, about half of all community college campuses - including City College of San Francisco, Ohlone College in Fremont, Cañada College in Redwood City and Solano College in Fairfield - are offering the degree in at least one major.
City College of San Francisco has two - psychology and speech communications - with physics in the works. The program is so fresh it didn't even make it into the course catalog for this fall. Even in the online catalog it's listed in the "addendum" section.
"It's a work in progress," Tom Boegel, the dean of instruction, said with a laugh.
Paying more for less -
At San Francisco State University, where classes began today, students say their experience already matches the more disheartening portion of the chancellors' message: paying more for less.
As a senior, Sadaf Malik is supposed to enjoy such benefits as priority registration so she no longer has to beg professors to let her enroll in classes she needs - a demoralizing process known as crashing.
And yet, "all the classes I need are still pretty full," Malik said.
She's a biology major, but she still can't get into a physiology class or the lab that goes with the class. Without them, her graduation next spring is in doubt.
"It makes me feel really frustrated," Malik said. "It stresses me out. And as college students, we have enough stresses as it is."
Malik also thought she'd paid her fall semester bill in full last spring - and then the CSU trustees voted in July to raise the fall tuition for the second time since November.
She paid her final $249 on Monday, meeting the deadline by mere hours.
"I've been working every single day," said Malik, an assistant property manager in San Francisco. "I just asked my boss for more hours."
While the state's chancellors pointed fingers at tax-hating Republicans, one of those Republicans - Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County), vice chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee - called their accusations "ridiculous on its face."
Donnelly agreed that public colleges and universities are in decline but said taxes are the wrong way to rescue them.
"All they're whining about is they want more taxes to chase more business out of the state," he said. "You can't have a high level of investment when you've killed off the golden goose."
A better fix, he said, would be to pay professors less and rein in labor unions and trial lawyers.