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Doomsday Budget Cuts $1 Billion from CSU

Audio

Aired 5/13/11

This week the California State University system unveiled its worst-case-scenario budget, and any family planning to send a kid to college should take note..

We know California's state budget is going to be painful. We just don't know exactly who's going to feel the pain yet. This week the California State University system unveiled its worst-case-scenario budget, and any family planning to send a kid to college should take note..

Guests:Michael Smolens, government editor, SDUT

Jeanette Steele, reporter, SDUT

Scott Lewis, CEO, Voiceofsandiego.org

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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.

ALISON ST JOHN: We know the California state budget is going to be painful we just don't know exactly who's going to feel the pain yet. This has put the California State University system under this worst-case scenario budget and many families who are planning to send a kid to college should take note of this. We would like to hear from you if you've got any thoughts on the possible effects of the state budget on the California State University system or are affected by personally, what does it mean to you? 888-895-5727. So Michael, Chancellor Charles Reed of the CSU system said this is like a scorched-earth budget. Tell us what are the details.

MICHAEL SMOLENS: Just a little bit of interesting context, so the trustees heard the worst-case scenario and they named the new president for San Diego State University Elliott Hirschman to succeed Stephen Webbers. Welcome to campus, by the way you're going to have this huge problem. He knew that by the way, he's the Provost and senior vice president at the University of Maryland Baltimore County but what happened with the trustees there are so many parts to the state budget because you suggested and people don't know where it is going to land but in the initial governor's budget CSU in the California University system both got a $500 million card which is huge and they are dealing with a prickly account compliments to both campuses because they were managing it I thought it was pretty well. There is pain in advance so forth but that is based on this extension of temporary tax increases which the governor has not even got the Republicans to go for public vote for. It's not going to solve everything, but suddenly they are realizing that it's like $2.3 billion more than expected. The Republicans in a recent budget releasing that is going to grow to 5 billion. They are still basing a 15 billion or shortfall overall statewide but there may be some room to move I think even in the worst-case scenario we will not see perhaps as bad as they were talking about but in any event is to was doing to be a very difficult situation for all education and services in the

ALISON ST JOHN: I heard Long Beach has had further funding drops within (inaudible) talking about bringing the system closer to a committee college model. I mean, how would that affect our vaunted higher education system here in California?

MICHAEL SMOLENS: I think that is the question, can we call it vaunted anymore. This community, the state has been so well known for so long for its higher education prowess, and prestige, the talent, the entrepreneurialism that blossoms from it. And if we are going to cut it, I think that would trouble not only people who benefited and built careers and benefit from their experience with it but also troubled parents like me who, you know, in a while, but soon are going to have to put our own kids there and hope that they would be as prestigious institution as there was. You know it's going to be interesting to watch how the May revise comes on Monday. The governor has not taken that there's actually $2.54 billion but they didn't expect to come but there's also morning was already coming out that the money is already pre-dedicated for public schools K-12, but also there's more prisoners, perhaps, also were school kids that need to be dealt with. So you know this is a very troubling time for the state and you almost want to shoot everybody in Sacramento and say get over it, figure it out. There's nobody in the state that thinks the prisons are more important than higher education. There is nobody who thinks that schools need to get the shaft, but what are we going to do and let's have some leadership finally and nobody's seen it.

ALISON ST JOHN: 888-895-5727 is the number to join the roundtable. Would you be willing to vote to extend your current taxes to maintain the California State University system. How important is California's public system of higher education to you. And Jeanette I wanted to ask you, a lot of veterans are going to actually two San Diego State University, right? We're actually one of the first university campuses in the state in terms of the number of veterans going. So you know this is affecting a lot of people including people that are trying to get back into the workforce again after they have been deployed, right?

JEANETTE STEELE: Right well thankfully that's actually have the generous post-9/11 G.I. Bill, that will help them but tuition increases, if they come, really what the impact is going to be is that people who graduated from CSU systems are going to have even more financially debt than they have now and they will be embarking on their new lives with this mountain of debt and as anyone who has ever had to graduate college with college loans, it is frightening to emerge and have to initiate them into addition to your first rent and try to handle your finances.

ALISON ST JOHN: Good point, yes, is one of the issues as individuals are getting burdened heavily with that more and more and this will only increase the producer tell us how much the tuition might actually go up as a result, Michael.

MICHAEL SMOLENS: I think it was, I forget if it was it six, 6,500, and I guess that is just including not including the campus fees and things like that some people argue that still a pretty good deal compared to not just private colleges, but public systems across the state. One of the things I think we touched on earlier that you mentioned that this is turning into a community college system. There's going to be a debate about higher education systems in the community college system as to what shape it is going to take. I mean, is this model going to be, are they going to hang on by a thread or is it going to radically change. Some professor seconded the UC system was it last year or early this year sent a letter saying you should close down some of the smaller campuses. I think actually the UCSD professors said to maintain the integrity of the system rather than dilute it. And you know there's going to be some really big debates about as opposed to in the past, they've always managed somehow cutting around the edges maybe we will see a real radical change but the notion of shutting down a bunch of campuses really is a notion that I don't think a lot of people can't quite grasp yet because they don't think actually what happened.

ALISON ST JOHN: But about this issue of public versus private education? I've seen reports suggesting that since the public education system of higher education is not going to be able to maintain his standards, that we need to be looking more to private education to fill the gap. How does that sit with you, Scott?

SCOTT LEWIS: There are some lessons that we actually need to learn. I mean, you cram 200 people into an intro to psychology class, why not get the four best psychology professors and managing our online system or something. It's not like they are getting individual instruction from the class of 200 or 300 people. There's got to be lessons that we can take from technology and from private education. There is private companies, for-profit companies doing a much better job of reaching out to populations that haven't felt included in the higher education system before. In other hand we have to demand standards into elite standards that would make it something you are proud of getting an education from. So there are a lot of lessons we are going to take the bike and all bricks and mortar, the University is very good at building buildings, but what are the future, what are we going to make to to make professors more, if they're going to be in a class of 400 people, why can't we somehow make it more efficient and some actually achieve greater results from that? But yeah, I don't think there is no panacea in private or for-profit education but there are lessons we can learn.

ALISON ST JOHN: Actually, 888-895-5727 is the number of you have a comment on the discussion here so I want to go sort of keep going on the idea of private universities started supplementing or substituting for the public because we have heard some stories of scandals and again I come back to the issue of veterans who got the new G.I. Bill, generous benefits and a lot of private higher education institutions have gone after those veterans because they want to tuition fees and are not necessarily giving the kind of education that they are touting, right, Jeanette?

JEANETTE STEELE: There are some scandals in that they focus on the military because they offer the online courses that people who are deployed, or people that work during the day can take at night, and the question has been whether or not those degrees actually prepare those people for fields and is not cheap to go to a private university. Said they cannot get jobs to offset, so I don't know, but were for-profit universities

ALISON ST JOHN: Do we see some questions marks here, Scott?

SCOTT LEWIS: They have some standards if you understood, the problem is they are enrolling people and not seeing them through not given them the type of education that they can be proud of so doesn't necessarily mean that for-profit is that it means that what we have seen is a race to get their government-sponsored funds and not necessarily see them through an elite education. If we can set the standards hiring demand better accountability perhaps there is a way to address some of the problem with that because they will be incentivized to achieve that. But again if you put the UC degree against somebody who has gotten some of these for-profit degrees they're not going to match up. Until that works out is going to be an option. On the other hand again there are lessons about how they are reaching out to underserved populations in the military that traditional universities better not just scoff at, they better deal with.

ALISON ST JOHN: They're actually giving them a run for their money in the system. 888-895-5727 and (inaudible) is calling from San Diego things for joining the roundtable. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: I am an alum of the UC and University of Wisconsin and a couple years ago when I was at Wisconsin which is a large statewide system, they were going to cut it almost as much as they are cutting it here, the UW publicly went on the offensive and basically it showed that for every dollar that the state spends on them they were returned eight dollars to state coffers in the forms of taxes, increase in innovation, patents on inventions they grant monies and so forth in the discussion so far has been on what the university is costing him suppress universities have gone on the offensive publicly and said here's how much money we are making from the state and if you cut as you will make cuts to the state.

ALISON ST JOHN: Good point. Michael?

MICHAEL SMOLENS: What the caller brings up is interesting because as I mentioned Elliott Hirschman is the new president for the state and one of the things he mentioned his need to tell the story better, what we mean to the community and by extension to the economy, what it brings to the table into something higher education across the country as to the University of Wisconsin is an interesting example and maybe the California State University and UC can take a lesson from that if they were successful as Frank suggests. But yes I think as we have been seeing a growing debate is college worth the money and so forth, college graduates still I think this survey show how they earn over the course of their lifetime, what the debris means. But you know, things are changing in this discussion, does it need to be for your system? Does it, should it be three years? And in terms of the online aspect, if anything this tradition bound it is certainly higher education to some degree. So I'll clean the glass half-full aspect of this that there will be a bust open discussion I'm really looking at the foundations of higher education and doesn't need to be shifted at all.

ALISON ST JOHN: Okay we have a caller I think has a comment about the role of higher education, Diane in Carmel Mountain thanks for calling. Go ahead.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you for taking my call. I am old enough to have benefited from a time in the 60s and 70s when higher education was meant for a liberal education to educate you to become more educated throughout your life. And what I see at this time is higher education has been relegated to trade school, albeit fancy trade school. The profit is privatized when for-profit universities in for-profit schooling has put forward. But the real profit is to the society as a whole. We have failing literacy levels in this country and we also have a whole class of individuals coming out of universities be it state or private with incredible debt, which limits their job opportunities. They have to be, choose very wisely and maybe more conservatively because they have to pay off the loans. I believe we should pay taxes that support higher education because we are falling behind the world. We are not where we used to be a part of the problem is because we are talking about profit rather than profit to the whole society.

ALISON ST JOHN: Diane, very well-made point and I thank you for the call and Michael do you have a reaction in terms of where we are eating our own seed corn or affecting the future really by the way that we are eroding the availability of public higher education.

MICHAEL SMOLENS: Well she raises many good points as you said. I think you could translate the argument almost word for word to K-12 as though she talked about literacy, that is where the real, the issue there. One of the things she touched on and we talk about the private university and she talked about the debt, but even in public universities job market whether people are geared for specific kind of career a lot of cases they are underemployed to meet the needs of their, paying off their debt and that is a huge pressure. So it just sort of gets to be compounded in that regard. I mean you have college graduates applying for jobs at coffee shops and that's not going to pay the bills. So there is no easy solution. Money is certainly one aspect of it. And getting back to the state budget for one second, and it is sort of a lot of people find it remarkable, certainly the governor does that he's being blocked from even asking voters whether they want to extend taxes which is a key issue. Every poll under the sun says voters want about whether they would approve that is dicey

ALISON ST JOHN: Just before we take a break, Michael, what are the chances that would get to vote this year

MICHAEL SMOLENS: The governor has still time to get Republican votes to do that he's been unsuccessful for months but I don't know what dynamic would change other than perhaps public pressure, but that is where his hope is right now.

ALISON ST JOHN: Okay stay with us we are on the editor's roundtable at Michael's violence of the as Union Tribune, send, and Jeanette Steele of the San Diego Union Tribune and we will be right back.

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