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CSU Chancellor Timothy White on Cal State’s big push for funding ahead of the state budget deadline

Then UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White attends a campus Occupy rally in 2011. He is now Chancellor of the California State Univeristy system.
Then UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White attends a campus Occupy rally in 2011. He is now Chancellor of the California State Univeristy system.
Steven Cuevas/KPCC

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Cal State officials are asking for more money during the final weeks of budget negotiations in Sacramento, before the state’s June 15 deadline.

CSU is asking Governor Brown for a $263 million increase – not just for this year’s budget, but for every year going forward.

Right now, the budget has Cal State receiving a fraction of that amount: $92 million. Governor Brown also proposed an additional one-time installment of $100 million specifically for servicing its facilities. Cal State has an estimated $2 million of maintenance work to catch up on.

A Martinez sat down with California State University Chancellor Timothy White to talk about why Cal State isn’t settling for less than its $263 million ask.

Where the funds would go

We have a singular focus these days at all 23 campuses of the California State University to get more students to a high-quality degree sooner. We call it our Graduation Initiative, and these resources would be used for exactly that purpose – to make certain we have faculty and academic support staff, courses being offered at the right time for our students so they can get to their degree sooner and then move on to whatever’s next for them.

Which areas need the most financial support

The biggest part would be hiring faculty and academic support, paying our employees a fair rate for their contributions to our students’ success. Those are the major things.

We also have our learning spaces, the buildings on our campuses. You know, when you’re 23 campuses, over half of them are 40 years old or older. They require some care and love every once in a while to keep them a great learning environment, so some of the money would be used for that as well.

Why the funding is so important this year

California has this tremendous need for more people in the knowledge economy who have at least a Bachelor’s degree, and you’ve heard these estimates by other people that we’re looking at a drought, a gap of about a million degrees between now and 2030. Cal State University is responsible for about half of that amount of additional graduates – 500,000 more Bachelor’s degrees beyond what we normally do between now and 2030. 

The second reason is there’s opportunity this year. The state coffers are strong. These are taxpayers’ dollars that have come in. We feel it’s very important to invest in sort of this seed corn, if you will, of our students.

Which cuts Cal State would have to make if the funding doesn’t come through

We would end up having fewer courses available, fewer faculty available for our students. We would admit fewer students, so access would go down. In the time it would take them to earn their degrees, it would start to move in the other direction. Instead of getting shorter, it would get longer. And it wouldn’t be an effect in one year. It’s like throwing a pebble in a pond, it would hit and it would ripple out over several years.

So we just think that we have made a very strong case. The legislature has been very responsive. And now the remaining task is to make certain that Cal State’s needs are at the top of what legislature brings into that final sausage making, if you will, of the budget process.

Chancellor White’s response to Gov. Brown’s statement that the Cal State and UC systems needs to live within their means

Well, I understand the Governor’s point of view, of balancing a very large budget of which we’re a component. But I also know that we have turned every stone on efficiencies and effectivenesses.

We have, for example, joined in the procurement business. We buy a lot of things as a university of our size. We’ve joined with the University of California so we can go out to bid for things that we both buy and get the lowest possible price. We share other business services with the UC, and we’ve ended up saving, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars on efficiencies while remaining effective.

But there is a cost of doing business. Even though it’s bigger than the number the Governor has put out there, it’s very much of a bare bones ask, to be honest with you.

Why Cal State won’t be raising tuition to get the funding 

I pulled tuition off the table for the next year, the 2018-19 year. So Cal States would under no circumstances raise tuition. We have decided to focus exclusively on the state of California’s ability to increase our state appropriation as the best way to go forward this year.

It is a very difficult moment for us, and I think if we’re unsuccessful, there will be reductions. But we have come to the conclusion that the best strategy, telling our story and why we matter for California’s future, has been well received by the Legislature and we’re going to continue to close out this budget season with that push and that push only.

How Cal State is lobbying in Sacramento

We have students telling their personal stories, we have alumni talking about their time on one of our 23 campuses and what they’re now doing in society. You know, over half the engineers in California are graduates of Cal State University. Over half the teachers are graduates of Cal State. Over half the healthcare workers.

You could go down the list of all the major parts of our economy, the business and industrial sector of our economy, and you see Cal State students everywhere. You know, one in ten people in California who are employed are Cal State graduates. That’s 10 percent of the world’s fifth largest economy come out of this university. I mean, that’s a stunning statistic when you stop and think about it.

Why Cal State won’t settle for less than its $263 million ask

We are very firm that the $263 million ask that our trustees put forward in November is for our highest priority needs. And that is the number that we believe is both appropriate and fair, and that’s the number that we are pushing for.