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Public Gives Statewide Education System Thumbs Up in Survey

November 17, 2009

From CSU Chancellor's Office

In the latest higher education poll released by the Public Policy Institute of California, Californians gave high marks to the state’s public higher education systems, but are concerned about the effect of continued state budget cuts and college affordability.

The California State University was rated as excellent or good by 61 percent of those surveyed, and more than two-thirds said they view college as necessary. However, while 69 percent said they place a very high or high priority on spending for education, a majority were unwilling to raise student fees or pay higher taxes.

"The California dream of a higher education is disappearing. We are grappling with the results of massive budget cuts and unfortunately have been faced with little choice but to raise student fees and decrease enrollment," said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed. "The PPIC poll confirms that the public values higher education, however you cannot continue to operate the largest public university system in the country and offer students a quality education when your budget gets cut by 20 percent in one year. We have had to do all of the things that the public doesn’t want– raise fees, cut enrollment, reduce class offerings and furlough our employees."

Last week, CSU announced (link to CSU Preview of 2010-11 Budget) that it has cut 4,000 students from its fall 2009 enrollment, and expects that number to rise to 10,000 by spring 2010. In addition, the CSU is slashing enrollment by another 30,000 students for fall 2010 to match student enrollment with the amount of funding received from the state. At the same time, demand to attend the CSU is at an all-time high as the number of applications received is running 53 percent ahead of last year’s totals, with community college transfer applications up by 127 percent. Freshmen applications are up by about 32 percent over the same time period last year.

The PPIC poll indicated that many Californians see a college degree as increasingly difficult to attain (65 percent), and more than two-thirds of residents say that many qualified people lack the opportunity to go to college.

"We are experiencing this first hand at the CSU since we know that not all eligible students will be able to get into the CSU of their choice, but we must limit access out of necessity," said Reed.

According to the poll, a strong majority of Californians (67 percent) support the idea of a sliding scale for tuition and fees, as well as increased government funding for work-study and grants and scholarships.

"More than half of CSU students receive financial aid," said Reed, "and we are the largest recipient of Pell awards (which go to the neediest students) in the entire country. It is time for the federal government to reexamine how federal assistance is distributed so that institutions that serve needy students are adequately supported. As it stands now, universities with few students of color and income need receive unnecessary federal financial aid."

As part of its annual budget process, next week the CSU’s board of trustees will consider the system’s budget request to the legislature and governor for 2010-11, and is expected to ask for an additional $884 million from the state. Calling it a “recover and reinvest” budget, CSU is asking the state to restore funding for one-time cuts of $305 million, as well as an additional $587 million for mandatory cost increases, enrollment growth, compensation increases, and a restoration of revenues to fund collective bargaining agreements with CSU’s employee labor unions. Included is revenue needed to "buy out" a 10 percent student fee increase.

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