Funding woes continue to hinder students, staff
September 20, 2007 8:59 PM
State funding problems, increased student enrollment and declining graduation rates contribute to budget woes that create a strained educational environment for students and faculty, according to university budget committee members.
The budget committee convened for the first time this semester on Sept. 12 to discuss the major fiscal challenges facing SF State, in addition to the $8.4 million budget deficit.
“There’s no magic answer,” said Leroy Morishita, vice president and chief financial officer of the SF State Administration & Finance Department. “This would require negotiations with the Legislature and governor.”
The bulk of the deficit stems from a budget decision at the California State University level that went awry four years ago, costing SF State $5 million, according to the committee’s agenda.
In addition, the agenda indicated that in 2003, university officials raised fees by $339 for non-resident students and relied on future earnings from that fee increase to cover budget shortfalls. The projected revenue never materialized due to Sept. 11, according to the document, when international student enrollment dropped sharply due to difficulty obtaining visas.
“By far, we had the largest international enrollment (in the CSU system),” said Morishita. “So we were hurt the most.”
Morishita said another problem in the budget is the state’s process for allocating money to public universities. He said the state distributes money to schools based on the number of full-time, California-residents in attendance.
“There’s a target (number of resident students) we have to hit to earn money,” Morishita said. “And we are exceeding that target.”
School President Robert A. Corrigan attended the meeting. He said that the university has been hit hard by the enrollment factor.
“We play the enrollment game like anyone else,” Corrigan said. "Because that’s the only way we can get the funding.”
However, the CSU Board of Trustees met this week to discuss a proposal for $94.5 Million in additional state funding—a 3.5% increase over last year.
Morishita said SF State is adding more students to take care of the budget deficit, and he said the school has added more housing. However, he said SF State officials are not interested in “exorbitant growth.”
“We’re not actively recruiting,” President Corrigan added.
Other factors straining the budget this fiscal year include: low graduation rates, utility costs, faculty unemployment insurance, and contract negotiations not funded by the state, university officials said.
“Our graduation rate is embarrassing,” President Corrigan said. “We are using up seats for folks that should be graduated.”
Lucio Medina, 35, an SF State student and creative writing major, said the high cost of living in San Francisco weighs on his education.
“The cost of BART is killing me,” Medina said. “In New York it’s less expensive to take public transportation than it is here.”
Medina transferred from Berkeley City College. He said he expects to graduate on time over the next two years by taking 18 to 19 credits a semester, in addition to summer school.
He said the only thing that would prevent him from graduating on time is an inability to get classes he needs. So far, he said he hasn’t had many problems getting into classes, but he said he has noticed a “buzz” on campus, regarding students infuriated with the new scheduling system.
Another SF State student, Mostafa Shafaq, 21, said he works two jobs to support himself, while taking classes.
Shafaq spent 2.5 years at De Anza College before transferring to SF State, and he said he is aiming to complete his Design & Industry degree within the next two years.
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