Impacted programs threaten education
September 14, 2010 8:33 PM
The California State University system granted $50.9 million earlier this year to its campuses to fund more classes, yet SF State still has seven impacted departments and four others approved for impaction during the 2011-2012 academic year.
The CSU system said in a February statement it would provide 8,100 extra sections statewide due to a $76.5 million federal allocation that covered payroll and left extra money to aid "enrollment growth."
The grant allowed SF State to add 354 sections to its bulletin this semester.
"We have 3,505 course sections on the class schedule for fall 2010. By comparison, we had 3,151 course sections on the class schedule in fall 2009," said Associate Vice President for Academic Resources John Kim. "To a large extent, the additional course sections we are able to offer this fall compared with last fall is due to federal economic stimulus money."
Despite the additional funding and increased course capacity, SF State and every other campus in the CSU system still face uncertainty in terms of balancing admission rates with available resources.
"Gov. Schwarzenegger has proposed a 2010-2011 restoration of $305 million to the CSU (budget), plus $60.6 million for enrollment growth," said Erik Fallis, a spokesman with the chancellor's office. "This still leaves the CSU at a level lower than where we were in 2007-2008."
The term impacted refers to a department or entire university in which the number of qualified applicants overwhelms the resources it has to service students.
"Once the department or university has declared impaction, they may impose additional criteria for admission over and above the minimums set for admission by the CSU," said Dean of Undergraduate Studies Gail Evans.
This could mean setting higher test score standards for out-of-area applicants or even completely closing the door to incoming freshmen and transfer students as the CSU system was forced to do last spring in the midst of a $564 million budget cut.
Currently, there are only five campuses statewide without any impacted undergraduate departments for the 2010-2011 academic year.
In contrast, San Diego State University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo classify nearly all of their departments as impacted.
Although SF State's level of impaction has created hardships for students, it is indicative of a problem still being faced by nearly every campus in the system.
"Right now we have three impacted programs," said Nancy Raboldt, chair of the department of consumer and family studies/dietetics at SF State. "Two have been impacted since 2005 and one began impaction this semester. It lets me manage my enrollment so I don't have angry students, but there's a tremendous amount of work for faculty that we didn't have before."
Currently, apparel design and merchandising, dietetics, interior design, journalism, nursing, psychology and social work are impacted at SF State.
Evans said that although the nursing department will soon be declared impacted, pre-nursing students will not be forced to satisfy impaction criteria. Instead, they will be admitted to the system as undeclared with an interest in nursing.
"I'd be really scared if I had to apply to the department right now," said Stephanie Kim, a level five nursing major set to graduate in December. "It was hard when I got in. They only accepted 80 students out of 800 plus applicants. I would tell students applying for the program to do as much volunteer work as they can and apply to as many schools as they can. Do everything you can because it's so competitive."
According to Fallis, the 5 percent tuition increase from spring to fall 2010 was not a direct result of department impaction, but it did play a role.
"The biggest factor in setting state university fees is state support," he said. "When the state decreases the funding for current students who are already enrolled and taking classes, that leaves the CSU with very few options. One of those difficult options is to raise student fees."
Nonetheless, students should keep in mind that the state foots the bill for two-thirds of the cost for their education.
Due to impaction this trend may not continue.
"While the CSU tries to minimize the impact of cuts on students, the deep cuts of the last two years have had significant consequences throughout the system," Fallis said. "An end to impaction would take a significant reinvestment in public higher education by the state of California."
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