Enrollment to be slashed at Cuesta College
March 31, 2011
Cuesta College could turn away more than 3,000 students next fall because of stalled Sacramento budget talks.
“It is a disaster for the community,” said Cuesta College Marketing Director Stephan Gunsaulus who noted the cuts will affect current students, graduating high school seniors and people looking for job training after losing jobs. “There will be a ripple effect on the local economy if we have to cut jobs.”
Statewide, 400,000 students could be excluded from attending community college campuses in the fall because California lawmakers failed to place a tax extension on the June ballot, Community College Chancellor Jack Scott said Wednesday.
Gov. Jerry Brown was unable to get the two-thirds majority required to put the extension on the ballot, which would have required the votes of four Republicans. Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, sat on the Cuesta College Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2005.
With budget talks stonewalled, the community college 112-campus system faces an $800 million funding cut, nearly 10 percent of its total budget.
Cuesta College is bracing for two shortfall scenarios having to do with the possibility that the school may not receive Proposition 98 funding.
California Proposition 98 requires a minimum percentage of the state budget to be spent on K-14 education using a complex calculation which is economically driven. The Legislature has the power to suspend Proposition 98 with a two-thirds vote.
With Proposition 98 funding, Cuesta College is expecting to turn away about 2,000 students, dropping enrollment from 11,831 to about 9,831. In addition, 321 fewer classes will be offered.
Without Proposition 98 funds, about 3,164 students will be turned away from Cuesta College reducing enrollment to approximately 8,667 students. It is projected that 507 classes will be eliminated under the worst case scenario.
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that increases the fees at all 112 community colleges beginning in the fall 2011 semester from $26 to $36 per unit, a 38 percent boost.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office has recommended that policymakers consider increasing community college fees even further, from $26 to $66 per unit to offset some of the cuts to the community college system. An increase in fees of that magnitude could make it difficult or impossible for the state’s most vulnerable students to attend college.
“We know if you raise fees, fewer students go to college,” Gunsaulus said. “The bottom line is we have less offerings and more demand.”
On a positive note, Cuesta College is offering an unusually robust schedule this summer at $26 a unit.