CSUF receives less funding per student than all other CSUs

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MIKE TRUJILLO / Daily Titan
This selection of Cal State campuses shows a variety of funding levels, Cal State Channel Islands receives the second most funding per student in the system. Cal State Dominguez Hills is ranked ninth, while Cal States Long Beach and Fullerton are ranked 22nd and 23rd respectively. (Mike Trujillo / Daily Titan)

Cal State Fullerton receives the least amount of funding per student in the 23-campus California State University, despite having the largest student body in the CSU, according to the CSUF Division of Administration and Finance.

CSUF receives $4,782 per student from the 2013-2014 fiscal budget with 38,325 students enrolled in fall 2013.

The amount of money each campus receives from the state is decided by a formula set by the Chancellor’s Office. Enrollment is divided by the the student to faculty ratio (SFR) and allocates funding to the universities per student.

The Chancellor’s Office calculates the SFR number, determining how much funding a campus gets per student.

Each campus gets a target or number of students that they are supposed to teach, or full time equivalent students (FTES). The funding each campus gets is designed by the SFR.

The Maritime Academy in the San Francisco Bay Area is ranked 23rd in enrollment and receives $23,184,576 in general allocation for roughly 1,000 students. They receive $20,963 per student.

Elizabeth Chapin, a CSU representative, said the campuses rely on the general fund allocation (state funding) and tuition fee revenue.

The general fund allocation, which determines how much each campus gets from the state, is primarily based on the campus’ student enrollment.

To do this, the Budget and Academic Affairs departments at the Chancellor’s Office work with their counterparts at the campus to determine what the effective enrollment target should be, Chapin said.

CSUF is tied with Cal State Long Beach for the highest enrollment, but CSULB still receives $11 million more than CSUF, which is $423 more per student.

Jon Bruschke, an at-large representative for the Academic Senate and the College of Communications representative for the Planning Resource and Budget Committee (PRBC), said in order to change these numbers, students would need to send letters to the chancellor, the Academic Senate and the PRBC demanding formal discussions on equity within the system.

“It probably doesn’t seem like it to the students who have to spend 90 minutes looking for parking spaces every day but both the senate and the PRBC and the Chancellor’s office all do really believe that the most important thing is serving the students well,” Bruschke said. “So if the students express strongly an opinion, I think that has a lot of resonance.”

Bruschke calls the current funding a “silent killer” for the quality of education.

“The equity issue has been going on since they set the SFR number 20-25 years ago,” Bruschke said. “No one’s going to make an issue out of it if we don’t make an issue out of it.”

Each department receives money to hire faculty to serve the number of students set by the SFR, which gives every department a huge incentive to hire part-timers instead of tenure-track faculty and to offer mass lecture classes instead of small seminars.

The campus gets a set amount of funding per student that does not completely go to faculty. Spending on health care and facilities must be factored in, Bruschke said.

“At Cal State Fullerton, we routinely try to make (upper division classes) mass lectures and that’s such a disservice to our students,” Bruschke said. “It’s all driven by the budget and it is made way worse on this campus than it is on other campuses because of the lower level of funding that we get.”

Stephen Garcia, interim vice president for administration and finance, said the university has been engaged in active discussions with the Chancellor’s Office concerning the funding issue.

“As Chancellor White acknowledged during his visit here last May, Cal State Fullerton’s status as the CSU campus receiving the lowest state support per capita is an accident of history that warrants review,” Garcia said.

Bruschke said the university needs to move from informal conversations between the president and the chancellor to having a concerted campus-wide effort where the budget committee, the senate and the student groups work together.

“The core of the problem is—it is a political issue and political change happens when groups are able to organize,” Buschke said. “And what makes it hard for us to organize is we’re a commuter campus and the students are rotating constituencies, so every four years there’s a new group of students.”

There are two ways to address inequity in the system. The Chancellor’s Office could change the formula for the funding per student number (the SFR) or the state legislature could give more funding to the system, which Gov. Jerry Brown has very publicly dismissed, Buschke said.

A changed SFR number would mean that CSUF would receive more money without state government needing to approve it.

However, there are other ways to make money, including increasing auxiliary service fees such as parking, grad fees and raising textbook prices.

“We serve students who don’t have a pile of disposable income on a commuter campus,” Bruschke said. “Asking them to pay more for auxiliary services because the Chancellor’s Office won’t allocate the same money to us that the Northridge students get is not fair.”

Bruschke said it would be difficult to get the other campuses on board with the idea of changing the SFR percentages because in order to raise our numbers, the other campuses would have to lower their percentage, and could stand to lose money.

“The point of public higher education is that every student should have the same access, and when Cal State Fullerton students get funded so much less than everybody else, our students suffer,” Bruschke said.

If CSUF were funded at the same per student rate as its peer CSU campuses, CSUF would receive an extra $20 million in state support annually, Garcia said.

He said the university could use the $20 million to spend on faculty, class sections, student success and initiatives, among other things.

Robert Turnage, assistant vice chancellor of budget, presented the 2014-2015 budget proposal to Gov. Brown last week at the Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach.

The proposal recommended that $79.2 million be used to address a 5 percent increase in enrollment. The amount would enable the system to add approximately 20,000 full time equivalent students at less than $4,000 per student.

“Our campuses are serving more students than they are getting funding for and it’s something that you can do in the short run,” Turnage said. “In the long run, it’s not a sustainable practice.”

He said the state’s ultimate objective is to make sure they provide the resources not only to provide classes, but also to ensure that students obtain a degree.

Brown will present his budget proposal to the legislature in January.

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