Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

CSU Outlines Doomsday Budget


California State Universities, the largest system of senior education in the country, is bracing for the worst -- $1 billion less from the state of California. School leaders say the cuts will amount to a "scorched earth budget" and the institution could be devastated. We'll find out how students and CSU employees could be impacted.

They say elections have consequences. Now, we're learning that sometimes not having an election has consequences too. Governor Jerry Brown's plan to ask voters to extend tax increases to help cover the state budget deficit did not get enough support in Sacramento. So, without the extra money from those taxes, the California State University system is preparing for drastic cuts. In fact, CSU trustees have just released their contingency plan for $1 billion in cuts.

We'll talk about those plans, and how they may affect San Diego State University and CSU San Marcos.


Robert Turnage, California State University assistant vice chancellor for budget.

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.

CAVANAUGH: They say elections have consequences. Now we're learn that sometimes not having an election has consequences too. Governor Jerry Brown's plan to ask voters to extend tax increases to help cover the state budget deficit did not get enough support in Sacramento. So without the extra money from those taxes, the California state yesterday system is preparing for drastic cuts. In fact, is CSU trustees have just released their contingency plan for a pillion dollars in cuts of joining us to talk about those plans that may affect San Diego state university, and CSU San Marcos, is my guest, Robert Turnage. He is the California State University assistant vice chancellor for budget. And Robert, good morning.

TURNAGE: Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Now, just a few weeks ago, we heard that the CSU system faced five hundred million in cuts. What happened that led to the cuts can you believing to a billion?

TURNAGE: Are, when we talk about a doubling, it's a potential doubling.


TURNAGE: We're not sure what's gonna happen yet. What we know for certain is that we're gonna have to deal with $500†million of cuts of and that's really challenging enough in itself. It's really driving the institutions right to the edge. But the possibility that the cuts could double depends on what happens in the state capital in the next few weeks with regard to the budget. It's within true that Governor Brown has been successful in getting the two thirds vote that he needs to do these temporary tax expenses, but he's still trying, and we're still hopeful that he'll be successful. But if he's not, it's our obligation to begin a discussion with our trustees about worst case scenarios.

CAVANAUGH: Is part of releasing this contingency plan to sound an alarm?

TURNAGE: Well, like I said, wee obligated to begin talking about this, we can't just sit back and wait for the state's uncertain process and uncertain timing and then react. So we have an obligation to talk with our trustees, and if we do that, we have to do it in public. So that's the primary purpose. But I think there is a secondary purpose in trying to make the broader public, across California, aware that there's some very serious things at stake in this state building, and people need to start getting Good evened.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Robert Turnage, he's assistance vice chancellor for billion for the California state university system. And [CHECK AUDIO] Charles Reed in announcing this contingency plan called this I scorched earth budget, saying that the institution of California state university, the system, will be devastated. So if you can, tell us what the scope of the impact is on these 23 universities, if indeed this billion dollars in cuts has to go through.

TURNAGE: Right, well, we hope that that isn't what final he happens. But the reason that we are using a billion dollars is that there have been repeated public statements over the last couple of months by the governor and key members of legislature that cuts might have to double. And not just for us, but for the rest of higher education. But just to give you an idea of the scope of this, the $500†million that we're already dealing with, that's equal to the state -- the amount of state support that is received by our ten smallest campuses, and we have 23. So our ten smallest campuses serve a total of 78000 students and get about $500†million from the state. So imagine having to content with doubling that. Now, we're not gonna close campuses down, that would be a huge disservice to the people of California, bodies the practical hurdles involved in doing such a thing. But that is, I think, the listeners, idea of what the magnitude of what we're doing with.

CAVANAUGH: Some of the headlines that came out of this contingency plan yesterday was a 32 percent tuition hike for students, that on top of the recent tuition hike of ten†percent. Do you -- what kind of a response have you been getting from that.

TURNAGE: I think so far the response that we're getting is one of -- it's a sober response, rather than a hysterical one. And I think it's because people who are, including the students who are deeply involved in what's going on with the state budget, actually understand the dire stakes involved. They understand that if the university doesn't have enough revenue, that it's going to affect student access to courses, it's gonna ultimately diminish the value of a CSU particular. So even students need to be interested in making sure that the university is adequately funded. So sever I would describe the reaction as just sober. And just an understand that, yeah, we're facing some very dire possibilities.

CAVANAUGH: Why would it under mine the value of a CSU degree?

TURNAGE: Well, ultimately, if the state doesn't have enough resources to offer quality programs, to offer enough course sections at the right time for students to make timely progress toward degree, the university will develop a reputation for lowered quality. And once that reputation sets in, I mean, that's what higher education all across the country is in large part about. It's the perceived value or quality of what an institution is offering to its students that confers value upon the degree that's issued.

CAVANAUGH: A lot of these plans, as you've been pointing out, are contingent on what kind of cuts are in the state budget for higher education in California. One of the things though, that is you're actually going to implement is the idea that you will not make any admissions decisions for the winter spring terms of 2012 for any CSU applicants until a budget is finalized. When do you expect the budget to be finalized, and how long could those decisions be held up?

TURNAGE: Well, or best hope is that the hedge similarity and the governor will come together with some kind of compromise by the end of June of that's the best case scenario. Last year we didn't have a state budget signed by the governor until October†8th, which is just phenomenally -- puts us in a phenomenally difficult position. But our best hope is it gets resolved by the end of June. There may be a special election involved in which voters are asked to ratify whether or not these tax extensions go forward. Depending on how that is structured, it could be structured in a way where the legislature approves tax extensions that go through the next fiscal year. And in this case, we don't have to do these terrible contingencies because we know what our situation is, at least for the year. However, let's suppose that they schedule the reaction for September this year, and the way they structure it is they say, okay, people of California, are you interested in having these temporary tax extensions go past September? Yes or no? And the people vote no, now, value of a suspect, the entire state is plunged into having a very disruptive situation of having to cut things in the middle of a year. That, you know, so it's hard to predict how this is gonna turn out. So we're gonna be paying very careful attention in the next few weeks to how the budget debate proceeds.

CAVANAUGH: In our final empty, Robert, I know there's been some concern expressed by the trustees that if indeed this billion dollar budget cut goes into effect, it's gonna take the CSU system quite some time to recover.

TURNAGE: Oh, well, I think part of the discussion yesterday with the trustees, and the reason that we were putting such emphasis on will need to raise tuition revenue under a worst case scenario is to protect the basic quality of the university from falling any further. That's an absolute must, and that's an absolute must for the people of California, I mean, this university is such a valuable asset for the people of California, and it took decades to build. So whatever we do, we're gonna take great care to make sure that it doesn't unravel.

CAVANAUGH: Robert, thank you for talking with us today.

TURNAGE: Thank you very much.

CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Robert Turnage, CSU assistant vice chancellor for budget. If you'd like to comment, it's at Days.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.