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How Bad is the Budget Crisis at CSU Schools? Uh, Pretty Damn Bad.

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CSU Long Beach. Somebody's home, but the lights might be off. Photo by LA Wad via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

CSU Long Beach. Somebody's home, but the lights might be off. Photo by LA Wad via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
LAT's Steve Lopez takes a look at just how dire things are at "the once-great Cal State system" of universities in his latest column, chasing the rumor that in order to save money "they might be shutting down phone service at Cal State Long Beach." Yeah, you read that right. Apparently "turning off the phones campuswide was recommended by committee members as a way to avoid further cuts in instruction. The thinking was that professors could use personal cellphones to conduct school business."

One way the CSU campuses are saving money is by shutting down two full days a month. Those are mandatory system-wide furlough days; faculty and staff are enduring a number of individual furlough days as well, in exchange for just shy of 10% less pay. Lopez explains the consequences:

That means teachers lose six of the 60 hours in a semester, so they're compensating by using more multiple choice exams and spending less time on individual assessment. [One instructor] said he's giving tests that last only 10 minutes because everything has been squeezed. Lecturers by the dozens are out of work. Teachers are dipping into their own pockets to pay for copies of tests.
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Students, however, get to pay more for less education thanks to fee hikes that continue to be implemented. To add insult to injury, these students--the few who do get accepted under new admissions cuts--find themselves facing less resources once they get on campus, and fewer options for registering for classes for upcoming terms because the CSU can't employ enough teachers.Lopez is a CSU alum who went to San Jose State "because it was an affordable bargain, and it was the great pathway to upward mobility," who now imagines the system's future as operating on "a three-day week, with academic buildings rented out to storage companies and professors teaching class in parking lots and under trees." With the state-level budget crisis it's not inconceivable that the CSU "could lose entire departments, furlough even more teachers and staff, and turn the whole system into a third-rate mediocrity." In fact, higher ed in California could be cut off from federal-level assistance if this keeps up:

California's funding for state colleges is so low, [Cal State Long Beach President F. King] Alexander said, that the state is in danger of losing federal dollars. In the past, Washington has given waivers to other states that dropped below minimum support guidelines set in D.C., but Alexander asked Duncan to reject any such request from California.