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SDSU Copes With New Fees, Enrollment Targets

Audio

Aired 11/10/10

Three times since September, SDSU has been given increased enrollment targets from the CSU system for this academic year. The current target is 27,999 full time students. The increase will happen in the spring semester. We find out how SDSU plans to get more than 6,000 new students here, where they will come from and what affect this may have on the graduation rate.

SDSU Campus

Above: SDSU Campus

Three times since September, SDSU has been given the go-ahead to increase its full-time student population for this academic year, a difference of 2,766 students in each semester. The increase will happen in the spring semester. We find out how SDSU plans to get more than 6,000 new students here, where they will come from and what affect this may have on the graduation rate.

Guests: Nancy Marlin, SDSU Provost

Ethan Singer, SDSU Assoc VP for Academic Affairs

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and You're listening to These Days on KPBS. California's evolving budget problems keep throwing curve balls to the state's university system. San Diego state university has been give the green light to increase enrollment this spring quarter, but at the same time, California university trustees are considering whether to boost tuition 15.5 percent next fall to offset cuts in state funding. Joining me now to try to make sense of the fluctuating size and cost at San Diego state are my guests, doctor Nancy Marlin is provost of San Diego state university.

NANCY MARLIN: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And doctor Ethan singer is associate vice president for academic affairs at San Diego state university, and Ethan, welcome.

ETHAN SINGER: Good morning, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, we invite our listeners to join the conversation, have you been able to keep up with the changing numbers and requirements for admission to SDSU? Call us with your questions and your comment, the number is 1-888-895-5727. Well, Nancy Marlin, as we just heard in our newscast just before we started, that there is a fee hike being considered by the California state university trustees. We got that news yesterday from associated press, they are gonna vote on increasing tuition five percent next semester, another ten percent next fall. Why do the trustees believe the fee increase is necessary?

NANCY MARLIN: Well, this was a very anticipated increase. Two points, though, we're gonna stop the mythology of calling it fees. For a long time we've said, we have no tuition. We only have fees. And I think that's not only been you know, a mythology. We actually have costs to attend the university. But in some cases, it's caused real problems. For example with our veterans, the GI bill pays for tuition. We had no tuition! They couldn't get reimbursed. So now we're going to start to use the word tuition, which I think is a more honest approach to what's happening. Within the good afternoon's budget, within the planning of the legislature, within our own budget, there was a ten percent increase planned. What the CSU board did several months ago was implement a five percent increase and then ask for a buy out for the five percent. That did not occur in the billion. So the trustees had said, if that is not in the budget, they will go back in November for the other five percent so much that's going on, in fact, as we speak today, the board is meeting. I think people often think those percents sound very large. Five percent is a hundred and $5 for a semester. So it's really, when you look at the base being quite low compared to all four-year national institutions, that's a hundred and $5 increase for the semester.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But if it goes up another ten percent next -- for the fall semester, that's an additional --

NANCY MARLIN: It'd be $444 for the entire year increase for the following year. Once again, the trustees are putting in a request that there be a buy out by the legislature. Assuming that does not occur again, it would increase by $444, this is I think a more sensible way to do it in advance, because it allows students and parents to plan on this increase, and when you look at the entire marketplace for higher education, public higher education, the California state university is still, I think, an incredible value. Because the average is close to $8,000 in tuition for public four-year institutions nationally. And we're gonna be a little over 4000.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: However, when the officials at San Diego state university, yourself, and the leadership at the school hear about a proposed fee increase like this one, how does the school react? Is there any official reaction from SDSU? Any kind of a protest or anything like that?

NANCY MARLIN: Well, there are some students, I think, if you ask anyone, would you like to pay more for something or less for something, of course the natural proclivity is I'd prefer to pay less. We've worked worry closely with our associated student body, the executives and the council of associated students. These student, I think, generally are supportive 'cause they understand the quality they're receiving for their education, and that these fees are indeed necessary to pray for that quality. So we haven't had any -- again, I'm sure there are many students who would object to this. We haven't had any large protests in terms of the tuition increase.

ETHAN SINGER: If I could just --

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes, Ethan singer.

ETHAN SINGER: It's important to note that a third of this goes to financial aid, it's a set aside that goes to financial aid. So a significant number of students will have this tuition covered by their financial aid.

NANCY MARLIN: In fact, roughly a third of the students at San Diego state university pay no tuition because it's covered by grants, I don't mean loans by grants, pel grants, cal grants, and so forth. So the neediest students are not paying this at all. In fact, from a public policy view, one could argue that we're in some way subsidizing middle and upper class students who could easily pay amount more, and that would create greater financial aid availability for the students who have the financial need.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Before I move on to the enrollment the juggling enrollment numbers that you've had to deal with over the past fall, let me ask you, have the trustees made it clear what would be the consequences if this tuition fee hike was not enacted.

NANCY MARLIN: Well, I think you'd see what was going on for the past few years. We'd be decreasing our enrollment because we don't have the funds to suffer additional students. And what's been happening academically largely, is we have not been replacing faculty. And faculty, of course, are the heart and soul of a university. When we have had faculty retire or leave, we've basically not been hiring ten-year tenured track faculty that we need to replace them. That's the cost of a human institution, most of it goes into faculty, salaries and benefits.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I am speaking with Dr. Nancy Marlin, she is provost of San Diego State University. And Dr. Ethan singer is also a guest, he's an associate president for academic affairs at SDSU. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let's take a call. Jim is calling from Ramona. Good morning, Jim, and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. And what I'd like to ask the provost and the other guest is this. I'm in the middle of comparing my cost of college for my daughter who's graduating, and I'm finding with some merit based scholarships from the prominent universities that actually the cost of going to a UC or even a cal state college is on parody with private universities now buzz these fee ins continue to rise. So I'd like to know how are they bench marking against private and considering the merit based scholarships that are out there? Because right now, the cost is actually cheaper to send my daughter to a private school than a UC school.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you for the call, I understand. Nancy Marlin, would you like to take that.

NANCY MARLIN: Congratulations if your daughter is receiving so many merit based scholarships. We also have merit based scholarships. I hope you're looking at San Diego State as well. I also caution parents a lot of time, the discounting at a private institution may seem like a large amount but when you really look at the net costs which is what you have to compare, it may not be as favorable. Also be certain, this is just unsolicited advice, Jim, that it is a renew believe scholarship. They're often one year, then they decrease in their benefits and so forth.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: But have you bench marked, as the question was, what it does cost at a private university.

NANCY MARLIN: Yes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay.

DEFENDANT: And as I mentioned earlier, even when you compare to four years publics, we're substantially below, and we're very much below, even with discounting, the discounting being the different types of scholarships for privates.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me move on to enrollment, because I know you've been on something of a roller coaster this semester. And Ethan singer, to put news about the enrollment in some sort on context, how did the state's budget problems affect enrollment in fall 2010? Didn't you have to decrease enrollment for this semester that we're in right now?

ETHAN SINGER: Yes, we had to decrease our enrollment by 10.8 percent. Which was about 4000 students for us. And we were operating under that premise from the governor's budget when it was released in January through September 12th, actually, and had planned for that. Took a number of steps to make that happen. And we were right on target in terms of hitting what our target was supposed to be. But then on September 13th, weep started receiving increase targets, man dates if you will, from the California state university system. And the 50 was due to federal stimulus money being identified, about a hundred and six million for the CSU. So we had our enrollment target raised for the fall, and it was raised three additional times after that. Now, the problem is that this is coming in the beginning to midpart of the semester, so we can't increase fall inrollment, which means to me to target, you have to double up the size of the enrollment class this you're gonna admit for the spring. So that's the situation that we're facing right nu.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So how many additional admissions are you going to have for spring 2011 because you can't increase in the middle of a semester?

ETHAN SINGER: Right. Well, 50, we haven't had an under graduate spring admission cycle since 2008. So this is very unusual for us. Right now, we're looking about 4600 students.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In total?

ETHAN SINGER: Brand-new, under graduate enrollees. That's kind of the target. We've been encouraged to go beyond that. Of we don't know if we'll be able to generate the applications to go beyond that. And so a reasonable target at the moment, this is as of today, is about 4600 new under graduate students.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, the reason, perhaps, Nancy, that you don't know if you're gonna be able to generate that admissions is because people are not used to being admitted to SDSU in the spring.

NANCY MARLIN: Right. You said Maureen, something about -- in your intro, are you keeping up with the changing numbers and requirements? And if so, please call in, because we'd like to hire you. This has been almost -- in some cases, almost a daily change. It is what's happened, we've been buffeted around by the state budget. And then with these additional funds, some of which are one time, and we don't even know if they're going to continue, which is problematic, we are trying to increase our enrollment to meet the target for the new funding, and students, again, for years, we have not done a Spring admission. We only do admission in the fall. Of so suddenly getting the word out to everyone that yes, we are taking students in the spring, and yes, we are taking lower and upper division transfer students and fresh men, and so forth, that we never would, you know, have taken. We haven't taken lower division prefers since we were impact in 1999. So trying to get this information out, there's a lot of confusion. Some of the colleagues are obviously skeptical. What are you doing now? And the concern, many of us really have, is what is gonna happen next fall? Because of course there's possible changes still in the budget with the new governor, and so forth. And if we have any sort of reduction, that means we have to then -- we'll have the students come in the spring. They're not one time students. Even though this is one time money. So we just don't know. It is changing.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is there an admission deadline for spring?

ETHAN SINGER: Yes, the application deadline is November 15th.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, my.

ETHAN SINGER: And then all materials, supporting materials, transcripts are due on November 30th. And those are very tight deadlines that we will adhere to because at the same time we're working on the spring admission, of course, we're receiving applications for fall of next year. And the deadline for fall, 2011 application is November 30th. 92 and we are a very popular institution as you may know, left year we had 62000 applications. So is this a very large endeavor going through the admission process.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering what has your out reach been like to schools in San Diego County, for instance, about this changing field of admissions at SDSU? What have you been doing.

NANCY MARLIN: We have been communicating through our various networks with all of the community colleges, through all of our counselors, but again, as you can hear, these things -- keeping up with what we've been doing is difficult enough for ourselves.

ETHAN SINGER: Our initial announcements met with some scepticism. Do you really mean it, you know? Etc. And especially coming off the fall admission cycle in which we were very restrictive in the number of slots we have had. So we've done a lot of working a lot of phone calling. A lot of networking, a lot of e-mails. And I think at this point, we've gotten the word out that we're very sincere about this, and we want students to try. But at the moment, we have about 6300 applications and we'll see what we get beyond that. And of course we have -- what complicates things, we don't be what our admit to enroll show rate would actually be, what our yield would be, because we have nothing to compare it against. This is very unusual. So we're kind of making this up as we go along.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with the provost of SDSU, doctor Nancy Marlin, and associate VP for academic affairs at the school, doctor Ethan Singer. We are taking your calls if you have questions at 1-888-895-5727. Ethan, since your enrollment is going to be going up in the spring semester, to you also have a problem with how much faculty you have? Are there enough teachers for this boost in enrollment?

NANCY MARLIN: That's what we're using the additional money for. We will be hiring faculty, we've started doing ten-year and tenure track searches, which that's a great joy in all of this because we haven't been able to do that in the last few years as I mentioned. So students will be assured to get the classes they need.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I want to take you back to the idea that also was introduced recommend, and that is how SDSU has changed the boundaries of its local admission area. And Ethan, if you would remind us why and how those boundaries were changed.

ETHAN SINGER: Well, the boundaries are San Diego County south of state route 56 to the Mexican border, and then all of imperial county. Previously, and this goes back to the mid-1990s, we were -- had all of San Diego County. But when CSU San Marcos reached a point at which they could offer a wide range of majors, etc, it was at that time that it was decided that CSU San Marcos needed to define its local admission area, which for them became that border of state route 56. And so we took the area below state route 56.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I wonder, I know that which this was first introduced, and when was it? Last year?

NANCY MARLIN: No.

ETHAN SINGER: No, this has been in place for quite some time.

NANCY MARLIN: What changed, Maureen is there used to be a guarantee.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

NANCY MARLIN: If you were in the local service area, you were guaranteed admission. We no longer have the local service area, we provide them additional -- we call them eligibility points, it's a combination of your grade point average and standardized SAT or ACT scores. Those students get an additional points. So for example, you might have an SAT score 900, and we'll add, and again it depends on categories and so forth, we might add, say, 300 points. So that student will jump ahead in line, will act as though they have a 1200. So they will have a distinct advantage, but it's not a guarantee.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And that received an awful hot of criticism when it was first introduced. How is the policy working out?

NANCY MARLIN: One of the things about the policy that's been somewhat salutary about it, students said to me, and this was somewhat disconcerting, if I'd known it would be difficult to get into San Diego state, I would have studied. So my advice is, if you're planning to go to San Diego state, prepare to go to a university and do study.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Yes, that's some wise advice no matter what. Now, does this change in the admissions process? Is this change in the number of enrollment and the change in the admissions process, the guarantee that you were just talking about, kind of happened around the same time? And has it led to a lot of people not, as you say, not really understanding the admissions process at SDSU anymore?

NANCY MARLIN: Well, we have made -- we made a lot of changes because we were last year reducing, I mean, up until these last few changes, we were reducing our enrollment substantially. So there were a lot of changes going on. We were, as I mentioned, very much affected by the decrease in our funding through the state budget. We've now had that partial restoration, and again, it's only partial restoration of the cut, and that's allowed us to go back up.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, let's take this one semester farther out. And that is, Spring semester now you know you have these enrollment times. For the Fall 2011 semester, you don't know what your enrollment target is going to be; is that right?

NANCY MARLIN: We have a sense of what the target is going to be. What we don't know is if that is going to change because of any substantive changes in the budget.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If someone wanted to get into SDSU, would you advise them to --

NANCY MARLIN: Apply now. Because we know what the circumstances are right now with our admission for the spring. We don't know what they're going to be for the fall. So for students who we would be able to offer admission for the spring we can't tell that student you would also be admitted in the fall.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, just on the side of things about how things look, we've been talking about these tuition fee increases. When people drive around the campus, they're seeing an awful lot of construction going on. And I would imagine that some people might feel, well, where is that money coming from? If they need all this extra money for -- and they have to increase our fees in our tuition, why are they building so much? So tell us about the construction.

NANCY MARLIN: Well, that's always a question we receive and it's -- the answer is the funding sources are completely different. The operating budget is very different from the capital construction budget. We do put in regular requests for additional construction, and maintenance and update, renovation of buildings. But that is through a very different process, often through a bonding process. We have a lease revenue process that's going to one of our older buildings, we think, starting in the spring. So yes, that's a common concern. Like, why are you using the money for buildings? But it isn't an either or. We put in requests there, but we also, of course, are putting in requests for our operating budget.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I know as Ethan singer had to deal with the idea of enrollment targets going up and down and up and down, you have recently completed a trip to India, looking even farther out for San Diego state university. Tell us about that trip and what it meantime.

NANCY MARLIN: I was very proud. The U.S. embassy in India selected ten higher ed administrators from the U.S. I was one of them, fortunately, because of the wonderful work our faculty do. We had over 1800 students abroad last year. What I was there to do is to learn about the Indian higher education system, which is very complicated and changing. And then to look for situations where we could create greater opportunities for students to be abroad, for faculty exchanges and so forth. Because while we send so many students abroad. Most of them are still going to, you know, the UK, to Europe, to Mexico. And increasingly with the prominence of China and India, particularly, we're looking for additional opportunities for our students to be there.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And so what do you see coming from this in the future.

NANCY MARLIN: I think we'll have many more exchange programs with India. I met with lots of universities there. Many of these are based on the personal relationships that start exchanges for our students. And I'm a very strong advocate of our students being abroad. I really don't think we're providing the quality education they need for the world they're gonna be living in working in without that. So this will create even greater opportunities for our students.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I'm glad you had time to mention that, because I know that's something looking forward as SDSU goes on, and provides opportunities for its students. I'd like one more time, Ethan, if you would to tell people about the admissions for the springtime. Because it sounds like it's crucial, if anybody's interested in it, to do it now.

ETHAN SINGER: Absolutely. The application windows open, and it'll close on November 15th, at the end of the day of November 15th. Lower division transfer students are encouraged to apply, which is highly unusual, and of course upper division transfers, we'd like them to apply. They do that through CSU mentor. And that's all done electronically. They have till will November 30th to give us their supporting documentation, which includes transcripts. For the local area community colleges they provide the transcripts to us electronically. But those are very firm deadlines. And we just will not go beyond those two dates.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you both so much for coming in, explaining all this and being my guests this morning. Thank you, doctor Nancy Marlin, thank you, doctor Ethan singer. Thanks so much.

ETHAN SINGER: Thank you, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And if you have any comments please go on-line, KPBS.org/TheseDays. Coming up the unique story of a San Diego man whose life was changed by service in Afghanistan. That's as These Days continues here on KPBS.

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