CSUs potentially facing tough budget choices

FRESNO, Calif.

That's if, officials said, voters don't approve tax measures on the November ballot and $250 million is cut from the CSU system.

This week is Dog Days at Fresno State. It's normally an exciting time for incoming students as they familiarize themselves with their new surroundings, but as hundreds of new students gear up to register for their courses in the Fall, news about the state budget and its impact on higher education is putting a damper on their spirits.

"It's really hard right now," said transfer student Ana Leos. "It's a big issue with the elections coming up. We should be voting, we should be paying attention because if the higher tax doesn't pass then a lot of students aren't going to get their classes."

On Tuesday the Board of Trustees will discuss two options in order to be prepared for the possibility of losing millions of dollars mid-year.

If voters reject proposals to raise the state sales tax and income tax on wealthy residents, officials said one of two scenarios could take place.

The first, enrollment would stay the same, but tuition would go up by 5% or $150 a semester. Out-of-state tuition would increase by 9% and the rest of the funding gap would be made up by slashing employee salaries and benefits by 2.5%.

"It's hard because I don't want to pay higher taxes, but I want my daughter to be able to go to school so how do we deal with that?" said Brandy Sprattling, a parent of an incoming transfer student from Fresno City College.

Under the second scenario, enrollment would decrease by 6,000 full-time students or 1.5%, but tuition would remain the same.

In addition, 750 jobs would be eliminated and salaries and benefits would be cut by 5.25%, if agreed upon by labor unions.

Students and parents we talked with said the state is faced with a tough choice and either way the students are the ones who lose out.

"It's a difficult place to be for a parent and especially a young person that's just coming up that doesn't really know about all the economics. They're still in school, they haven't lived on their own yet," said Sprattling.

Her daughter Mercedes Govea said entering school during a time of economic uncertainty is putting a strain on her and her family.

"We've had to cut back a lot," she said. "Not do things we would normally do. I'm going to have to take out loans for a longer period of time."

The board will meet in Long Beach on Tuesday. Members say it'll make its final decision in September.

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