Trustees prepare for trigger cuts

by Ana Ceballos

Although state financial support for the California State University budget has been cut by almost $1 billion in the past 18 months, the CSU Board of Trustees assembled to plan ahead for a potential “trigger” cut of an additional $200 million in November.

Whether the CSU system will see an increase in employment layoffs, slashing enrollments and elimination of academic programs now depends on Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, which would increase income taxes of high-income earners by 1 to 3 percent.

CSU Assistant Vice Chancellor for Budget Robert Turnage said if Brown’s proposal fails, the budget goes down with it.

Turnage also noted that waiting for the election in November is not an option. Therefore the CSU Board of Trustees has decided to approach the problem beforehand, possibly by reducing enrollment by 2,000 students, cutting classes, eliminating programs and further the reduction of the CSU’s workforce by hundreds.

The CSU system already provides $700 million in state university grant aid, and is still not able to meet students’ needs. Brown’s proposal to increase the GPA requirements for the Cal-Grant program is adding pressure on CSU financial aid resources.

“A lot of people are still not aware that even though tuition has increased, the amount of money raised for financial aid matches the cuts,” Turnage said.

In 2010 and 2011 the CSU system raised a total of $344 million in gift commitments, surpassing the budget cuts. However, 97 percent of the donations are designated to go to support specific interests dictated by the donors, and cannot be used to soften the blow of state cuts.