City colleges bracing for state budget cuts

San Francisco students returning to college this fall could be met with fewer course options, fewer teachers and higher tuitions, all aimed at offsetting state budget cuts.

The California State University trustees in May will weigh whether to raise systemwide student fees by up to 10 percent, which would put fees at $3,039 this fall, said Paul Browning, spokesman in the chancellor’s office.

If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s January budget proposal passes, San Francisco State University could lose up to $17 million in revenues, college spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said. City College of San Francisco lost $2.5 million in property taxes in the 2007-08 school year, and is bracing for $6 million to $8 million in cuts this fall, said Peter Goldstein, vice chancellor for finance and administration at CCSF.

Since CSU leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement in 2004 allowing systemwide student fees hike by up to 10 percent per year, fees have nearly doubled since their 2000 level, $1,428. The consistent raise in hikes and the new proposal has angered some students.

“I’m appalled and infuriated with the [potential] new fee increase,” said Michael Tajan, a nursing student who will transfer to SF State’s nursing program as a sophomore this fall. “It will hurt me and my family, because I also have a twin going to the school, and that’s double everything.”

California’s community-college fees will remain at $20per unit for now; if the legislative analyst’s proposal to increase them to $26 per unit is approved during state budget proceedings this summer, higher fees wouldn’t take effect until January, Goldstein said.

Despite the college’s bleak financial outlook, SF State leaders do not foresee layoffs among approximately 800 tenured, tenure-track or permanent employees, according to President Robert Corrigan. However, that still leaves many of the college’s 800 lecturers vulnerable, said Ramon Castellblanch, president of California Faculty Association chapter at SF State.

“Our department chairs have been asked to draw up proposed schedules next year on the assumption of large cuts, and some lecturers have heard they may not be coming back,” Castellblanch said.

Before the summer, college trustees will consider reducing or eliminating some courses to balance the 2008-09 budget, Griffin said.

CCSF’s shortfall comes at a time when student demand for courses is at an all-time high, and could hurt not only course offerings but grant-funded programs such as services for disabled students, the administration of financial aid and programs for at-risk students, Goldstein said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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