Class cuts, fee hikes, furloughs plague schools

Students at Cal Poly and Cuesta College are facing fewer course offerings because of state budget cuts.

Cal Poly eliminated a number of elective courses in order to add required class sections to help students obtain their degrees.

The university is dealing with a $34 million budget shortfall this year because of budget cuts made by Sacramento lawmakers.

Student fees have been increased by 30 percent from last year to help deal with the budget gap.

A furlough plan is also currently in place in which all faculty, staff and administrators will have their pay reduced by about 10 percent. The university is deferring some maintenance projects as well.

Cuesta College canceled 138 classes in the fall because of state budget cuts and recently announced that the majority of its summer semester classes will be cut this year in response to the continuing economic downturn.

The cuts were made as the college prepared for a greater influx of students. There are currently 13,092 students enrolled in the spring semester.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott said last week that the state’s community college system is now starting to see a decline in enrollment despite the unprecedented demand resulting from record numbers of graduating high school seniors, California’s high unemployment and students being displaced from the University of California and California State University. Scott said that historical trends show that enrollment declines when funding is decreased.

Even with the drop in enrollment, California community colleges are educating significantly more students than the state is funding, according to Scott. The system sustained $520 million in cuts, or 7.9 percent of its overall budget in 2009-10 — equaling more than 200,000 unfunded students attending a community college campus. Colleges are forced to spend reserve funds to accommodate the shortfall.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.