President Welty meets with students to answer questions

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President Welty meets with students to answer questions

Fresno State President John D. Welty answers student questions at a public forum Nov. 3.

California State University, Fresno President John D. Welty met with about 200 students on Nov. 3. He answered questions regarding the California State University and campus budgets, rising student fees, faculty-staff furloughs and the president’s housing and travel. Here are some facts that Dr. Welty presented regarding those topics:

Budget/furloughs:

State support of the CSU has been cut by 20 percent – more than $600 million – over the past two years. This is not the result of poor decisions by the administration at Fresno State or in Long Beach. It’s a result of the worst economic conditions since the great Depression combined with the state Legislature and the governor diminishing higher education’s funding priority.

The CSU’s budget for instruction is based mainly on two funding sources: a state allocation approved by the Legislature and governor and student fees. When the state cuts its support, the CSU must find a way to make up the difference between costs and revenue. This past year, that meant a 32 percent increase in student fees. But that also meant sacrifices in many areas, including unpaid furloughs, layoffs, hiring freezes and no raises for faculty and staff, class cuts and enrollment limitations, plus a wide range or operational economies.

But CSU fees are still among the lowest university tuition and fee rates in the nation. About 60 percent of Fresno State’s undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid and for about 45 percent of them, the State University Fee is paid entirely by federal, state or university grants.

Among other budget-balancing measures:

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Systemwide furloughs for almost all of the CSU’s 47,000 employees, including the Chancellor, presidents and management employees. The furloughs were the choice of the unions representing faculty and most staff, and were imposed on management not represented by unions. The furlough option was chosen to help avoid layoffs within the various bargaining units.

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When we did receive additional stimulus money, it was designated to enhance instruction. At Fresno State we used almost of all our share to add over 200 sections back into the spring schedule and rehire about 50 lecturers. We made that announcement last week.

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Closing enrollment at Fresno State and all other CSU campuses for spring 2010 and reducing the systemwide enrollment by 40,000 students over the next two years.

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Freezing salaries for executives, applying a hiring freeze for non-essential positions, reducing employee travel and canceling non-critical equipment and supplies purchases.

Even with all the measures, our campus still had a $16 million shortfall.

Students’ call for rollback of fee increases:

The state university fee for Fall 2000 was $1,428, which is 35 percent of this fall’s rate. A return to that rate would mean Fresno State’s budget would have to be reduced by $52.6 million. To accomplish that reduction would require that we enroll far fewer students, reduce class offerings by 1,200-1,400 fewer classes and lay off faculty and staff.

Even with the fee increase, the CSU still has among the lowest fees of any comparable institution across the country, and 187,000 of our students do not even pay the fee increases due to general financial aid.

Housing, auto, travel:

Housing and a car are part of the President Welty’s compensation and job responsibilities, as is the case with other CSUs. In Fresno State’s case, University House was a gift from a donor to the state of California for the express purpose of being a residence for the president of Fresno State. The house is a state asset and must be maintained by Fresno State as a residence for the president.

The house is used on a weekly basis by students, faculty, staff and the community. It is an extension of our campus facilities. In the past year, more than 7,000 people used University House for meetings, socials, and fundraising events. Many of the events result in donations to the university and these dollars benefit students and faculty.

There is no such thing as free travel. CSU and campus officials – and faculty – travel is always job related, representing the university. They are working on these trips, attending conferences to keep current in their fields, to share their expertise and to learn best practices that will help the students.

To show their support for the university, President Welty and his wife have made a $100,000 pledge over five years to the Campaign for Fresno State. Their donation will benefit the university for years to come.

Budget review:

The campus budget review process allows for input from faculty and students. The Academic Senate’s University Budget Committee examines the budget and makes comments. That committee includes a student representative appointed by Associated Students Inc. This year’s student representative is Dominque Carrejo.

Assembly Bill 656/oil severance tax:

While CSU supports the idea of looking for alternative funding, AB 656 does not create a funding guarantee for the CSU. It is not a constitutional amendment and therefore its provisions can be ignored by the governor and legislature.

It is not a stable source of funding to provide the needed revenue to run the largest public university system in the country.