Student message: A budget update and a look ahead
Note: the following e-mail was sent to all students on 9/28/09.
I want to thank you for your patience and understanding over the past few weeks, as you struggled--with valiant and generous support from faculty and staff -- to find the classes that you need and make the most of what has been the worst semester for SF State students in our 110-year history. First of all, I want to update you on the University's current budget situation and then share information about changes underway which are intended to help you get the classes you need for both the spring semester and the next academic year.
Size of the budget cut
The California legislature (including all of the Bay Area members) and the Governor cut nearly 23% (or $38 million) of SF State's General Revenue funding -- reducing it from $166.7 million to $128.7 -- and imposed new unfunded mandatory costs of $9.5 million. Part of the loss in state funding was made up through a 32% increase in student fees, which (after the set-aside for financial aid) provided the campus with $18 million. An additional $17.7 million to help close the funding gap came from faculty, staff and administrators taking a one-year salary cut of nearly 10% because of the furloughs. Let me put this in a human perspective for you: A custodian earning $28,000 is losing $2,800 in pay; a department administrative assistant $3,500; a newly hired assistant professor $6,500 and so forth -- cuts negotiated with the unions or imposed on non-unionized management personnel to save desperately needed classes and keep already high student fees from going up even further. I would hope that you would keep these personal sacrifices in mind as you interact with faculty and staff on the campus. You should also know that although there were no layoffs of permanent faculty or staff, 401 lecturers lost their jobs because of lack of funding.
Loss of class sections:
3,164 sections are being offered this fall, down 339 from fall 2008. In response to what we were hearing from faculty, as well as students, we managed to add several sections after classes began, especially seeking to help those of you in need of another class to maintain your financial aid.
24,620 full-time equivalent students (FTES) -- down, as the Chancellors Office has ordered, from last fall. Because we are not admitting new students for the spring, we expect to have about 2,000 fewer students on campus. This should reduce some of the class registration pressure on you. Our enrollment target for the 2010-11 academic year has been lowered by 10.8%, which again will help to better match academic resources with student needs.
Progress to degree:
We urge you to make the time in the fall semester to meet with an advisor in your major and get advice about what courses you should plan to take. Most important, if you have not yet declared a major, we urge you to do so. This will ensure your eligibility for classes open only to declared majors. And if you are a course or two away from graduation and having trouble getting a class you need, do ask your major advisor about the possibility of substituting a class you have already taken for a major requirement. Please know that faculty, staff and administrators are hard at work on a number of plans and strategies that will help meet the demand for classes.
This summer will be a great opportunity for you to make up for critically needed courses you might not have been able to take in the fall or spring and get back on track. We are considering moving summer session to self-support, which will enable us to offer a fuller program.
You may be aware that the Chancellor's tentative budget proposal to the Board of Trustees for 2010-2011 includes a 10% fee increase, made with the expectation that the trustees will urge the Governor to buy out that increase with additional State revenue as he did in 2006/2007. We will keep you informed of relevant developments as they occur.
The $1.2 billion myth:
Anxiety can feed rumors and misinformation, and a two-year-old erroneous budget allegation is re-circulating. You may have heard that the Chancellor is sitting on $1.2 billion in non-state funds that could be used to fund faculty salary increases and restore classes. This is myth. The statement rests on a belief that funds appropriated or donated for a specific purpose can be harnessed at will and reapportioned to other purposes. This simply is not true. The Chancellor is legally obligated to use funds for the purposes they have been designated. It is not legally possible, for example, to take the bond money held in reserve for student unions, campus housing, or parking facilities and use it for any other purpose.
There is no magic wand or easy solution to our enormous budget problem. It will take creativity, sacrifice, and both vision and courage on the part of our elected officials to help get public higher education out of the mess that has been created. As for the campus, now it is time to look ahead and make plans that are both realistic and positive for a future that will certainly see continued fiscal hardship for at least the next few years. Yes, we are down, but we are far from out. Our challenge now is to restructure the campus and rethink the way we fulfill our educational mission. Re-envisioning San Francisco State in light of the current economic situation is a job for all of us --faculty, staff, students, administration -- and a job to be undertaken here, not in Long Beach, Sacramento, or Washington.
University Provost Sue Rosser, Academic Senate Chair Shawn Whalen and I have had several conversations about the shape this effort will take and you can expect to hear more from us soon. We learned from two previous outstanding planning efforts (CUSP I and CUSP II) that the key to successful strategic planning is widespread grassroots involvement. We will maintain that involvement as, over the next six to nine months, we look creatively at all the ways we do business. There certainly will be a role for students in this process.
As we have news to report, we will share it with you directly, so we urge you to stay alert to official e-mail communications from the University. You might wish to forward this e-mail to others, such as your parents, who may be interested in knowing how the University is coping with the California budget crisis. Both you and interested parents can also follow SF State news on Twitter (SFState_News) to get alerts about important communications.
I know this has been a difficult semester and that many of you are frustrated, disheartened and angry. As president I cannot promise significant, immediate improvements, but I can assure you that the faculty, staff, and administrators on this campus are doing their best -- and will continue to do their utmost -- to help you meet your educational goals.
-- Robert A. Corrigan, president
For related budget news, visit http://www.sfsu.edu/~news/2009/summer/15.html