Expected cuts to Cuesta not so deep
May 14, 2008
By KAREN VELIE
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced earlier today that his revised plan would restore billions of dollars to the state budget, greatly improving previously grim prospects for higher education.
Current fiscal year cuts to Cuesta College have diminished from an estimated $714,000 to $150,000. In addition, state budget cuts of 5 to 15 percent will impact categorical student services such as financial aid programs and disabled student services.
“It’s pretty good news,” spokesman Stephan Gunsaulus said. “It’s very important to us as it sets the tone for the coming year.”
This year’s increased budget is expected to reduce program cuts due to a projected $500,000 to $1 million budget shortfall next year.
Even so, Cuesta has bigger problems than budget cuts.
In January, The Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) informed Cuesta it could loose its accreditation if a number of problems were not solved. The commission put the college on warning. If accreditation were to be revoked, course credits would no longer be transferable to other colleges and universities, and students would be unable to collect financial aid.
In March, Cuesta sent a report to the commission detailing plans to remedy alleged disparities.
On April 25, the commission sent a team to review the college’s warning status. At a meeting slated for June 5 and 6, the commission will determine whether to validate Cuesta’s report and fully renew accreditation, leave the college on warning, place the college on probation, or vote to remove accreditation.
We fully expect to get off the warning status,” Gunsaulus said.
Forewarned in 2002 that issues regarding program reviews and unit-planning processes could result in the loss of the college’s accreditation, Cuesta College officials fell short in correcting the problems. The commission also voiced concerns regarding Cuesta’s high rate of interim administrators, ten at the time of the warning.
Cuesta College is not alone, during the past two years at least 14 California community colleges have been put on warning or probation. Many of these have blamed budget shortfalls for their accreditation woes, but not Cuesta.
“We are not going there,” Gunsaulus said when asked if budget shortfalls have played a role in the school’s accreditation difficulties and pointed to the termination of two vice presidents last year by the board. “One could speculate there is a linkage in those positions being terminated and the accreditation issues.”
Gunsaulus said the program review and unit planning issues have been addressed. Administration officials have filled five of the 10 interim positions with plans to fill the remaining posts sometime this summer.