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CSU Plans for the Doom of the 'Scorched Earth Budget'

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It's almost as if you can see the presidents of the 23 California State University campuses getting out their tin foil hats and hoarding the canned goods: The higher-ed system is bracing for what they are calling California's devastating "scorched earth budget," and have released details of their contingency plan of action.

Officials from the CSU presented the plan to the board today as a response to the "all cuts" budget they potentially face.

CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed said: "We are actively working to avert further cuts to the university and have been aggressively working to encourage elected officials and the public to support a final budget that includes tax extensions. However, we also have an obligation to be prepared for a worst-case scenario, and we do not have the luxury of a great deal of time. We cannot wait on the state and its uncertain budget process."

Enrollment cuts, tuition hikes, staff reductions, and other cost-cutting measures have already been implemented to address and initial $500 million budget reduction, however, they could face an addition $500 million in cuts. Officials face a precarious balance between providing students with a quality education and a degree with value and meeting their ever-shrinking budget. "Whatever we do," said Reed, "we must preserve the quality of our institutions and our academic programs."

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How will the CSU cope with more cuts? The two major considerations are turning away up to 20,000 qualified students for winter and spring 2012, instead "wait-listing" their applications, pending budget finalization, and hiking up tuition again, up to 32 percent.

Between 2008 and now, and in the face of the initial $500 million cut, the CSU has "reduced 8.8 percent of its workforce or 4,145 faculty and staff," and will reduce more. However, if faced with the second $500 million cut, the CSU will attempt to avoid more staff and faculty reductions, because of the difficulty it would place on the schools' ability to instruct and serve their enrolled students.