California State Univ. System Faces Budget Cut, Limits Enrollment

Hard hit by budget cuts, the California State University system is planning to cut its enrollment by 10,000 students for the 2009-10 academic year, unless state lawmakers provide more money.

“We can’t continue to admit more and more students without receiving adequate funding,” Chancellor Charles B. Reed said Monday.

It would be the first time in its history that the university system turned away students who met admissions standards, and the announcement was greeted with disappointment and anger.

“We have put the education system on a starvation diet, and each and every year it becomes weaker,” said Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a trustee of the university, who joined 150 people on Tuesday in Long Beach to protest the state budget cuts.

“Students now take five years to graduate,” Mr. Garamendi added. “Professors we need we cannot hire, the men and women we need to keep our institutions going, keep the heat on, keep the air-conditioning going, keep the toilets flushing, cannot be hired. You cannot have the best education system in the world on the cheap.”

In an e-mail message on Tuesday to employees, Chancellor Reed explained that the 460,000-student system already served some 10,000 students for whom the state provided no money, and that it faced further cuts to a budget that was $215 million below its operational needs.

He noted that even as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was proposing more cuts, “applications for fall 2009 are up almost 20 percent from last year, with a 36 percent increase in applications from community college transfer students.”

“Student demand is increasing while state funding is declining,” the chancellor added.

At a teleconference with reporters, Chancellor Reed said he had the authority to cut enrollment without approval from the Board of Trustees. But he is scheduled to present his proposal to the board on Wednesday.

To cut enrollment, the system would push up application deadlines and raise academic requirements for freshmen at the most popular campuses, he said.

Current students in good standing would be protected, officials said, and qualified students transferring from nearby community colleges would have priority. The brunt of the cuts would fall on out-of-state students, international students and freshmen seeking to enroll at a California State campus outside their region.

Chancellor Reed would not answer questions about possible fee increases.

Several of Cal State’s most popular campuses have for years cut off at least some applications in the fall, but the official deadline has been in the spring, and some colleges accepted applicants right up to the first day of classes.

This month, Mr. Schwarzenegger announced $4.5 billion in cuts to the state budget, to help close an $11.2 billion budget shortfall.