Fresno State President John D. Welty told faculty and staff on Thursday, March 22, that the impact of disinvestment by the state in California public higher education will make the 2012-13 school year difficult, and 2013-14 could be worse.

“We at Fresno State face a budget reduction of up to $10.5 million – right in the middle of the academic year” – if voters don’t approve the governor’s proposed tax initiative on the November ballot, Welty said. “In addition, there are recent stories about another state-projected revenue shortfall, which could further impact us.”

Welty said that after consultation with university budget and advisory boards, he has decided to use carryforward reserves if the states pulls the $10.5 million trigger in the 2012-13 academic year.

But, he said, the following fiscal year would be worse: a permanent budget reduction and an enrollment cap in 2013-14 would drive the budget down another $12.6 million and bar 800 or more students from enrolling at Fresno State. That “severe problem” will  force the university to examine its ability to continue supporting all of the programs and services currently offered.

Welty said he is working with the University Budget Committee and the University Resources, Planning and Advisory Board to beginning planning the 2013-14 budget.

For the school year that starts in August 2012, enrollment issues are front and center:

  1. Fresno State and most California State University campuses will not admit students for the spring 2013 semester.
  2. All students who apply this fall for admission in fall 2013 will be wait-listed at all CSU campuses until after the November election. If the governor’s tax initiative fails, admission targets will likely be curtailed or reduced by the CSU to ensure campuses can adequately serve students with fewer resources.
  3. Students registering for fall 2012 courses will only be allowed to enroll for 16 units. After a state budget is adopted, Fresno State will determine if it will be able to lift that restriction and allow students to exceed 16 units for the fall semester.

At the root of the university’s budget problems, Welty said, is a significant shift in state general fund support since 2008. The state appropriation has decreased by $47.8 million dollars and even with tuition fee hikes, there has been a decline in revenue. The new tuition revenue requires a mandatory allocation of one-third of every new tuition dollar received to be set aside for financial aid. This totals about $18.9 million at Fresno State.

The set-aside for financial aid means the declining state support is not offset by increasing tuition. In fact, at Fresno State there has been an overall operating budget decline of $17.5 million dollars in the last four years.

During this period, Fresno State has reduced its workforce, limited travel and purchasing and cutback and saved at every level of the university. Those prudent savings and some one-time support allowed the carryforward reserves to grow, but the looming state cutbacks could substantially deplete them, Welty said.

Welty urged the faculty and staff to continue to work together and foster a sense of community and caring while working through the difficult days. He also urged them and Fresno State students to register and vote in the crucial November election.

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