Today's news is often about the economy and how bad things are getting. We hear about "the worst recession in decades," "cuts to just about every facet of public service," and "looming layoffs." But, until it hits home individually, it can often all seem a far off reality. Well, the hit is here for Cal State Bakersfield.
In dealing with the state's $26.3 billion deficit, the governor and Legislature are taking a symbolic ax to the budget of higher education. They are planning cuts that will have a significant impact statewide now and in the future. California's place as a leader in the world's economy is in serious jeopardy. The prospect of a highly educated work force to aid in California's future recovery is shrinking due to the current state of California's economy. And, there is seemingly no end in sight.
The numbers are staggering. Faced with a $584 million budget reduction, the CSU recently implemented a plan that includes several measures to close the budget gap. No single solution is sufficient. The plan includes tough actions, such as staff and faculty furloughs, student enrollment reductions, an increase in student fees and additional cuts to campus programs and services. The pain is spread equally across CSU's 23 campuses, and CSU Bakersfield is not immune. But what does it all mean to us here at home?
CSU Bakersfield is bracing for a $13.5 million budget cut. As we weigh options for reducing the budget, two main goals drive the decision-making process: to serve as many students as possible without sacrificing quality, and to preserve as many jobs as possible for faculty and staff. We refuse to wavier from our commitment to excellence and a quality experience for our students. We want to retain our dedicated and talented employees. Both require a tough balancing act given the major blow dealt by the state's economic crisis.
Ultimately everyone will feel the pinch as we bridge our budgetary gap. For our students, it means higher fees and larger classes. For future students, a downsizing in enrollment levels will limit access. For our employees, it means 24 furlough days equal to a 10 percent reduction in wages, and possibly some layoffs. Even after these actions, an additional $4.8 million in cuts to departmental budgets will be needed to plug the entire budgetary hole.
While the budget situation is dire at the moment, I am confident we will emerge with more streamlined operations and more innovative programs. We have spent the last year looking strategically at all of our programs and assessing what offerings best meet the need of our students and our region. We continue to focus on our vision of excellence and take actions that advance our mission.
Yes, times are tough. However, it is unproductive to be mired in the drumbeat of "doom and gloom." We are facing the situation head-on and looking ahead to the future knowing our product -- well-educated professionals -- will ultimately contribute to the state's economic recovery.
A high quality education opens the doors to a prosperous future. Our students -- and California's taxpayers -- deserve nothing less.
Horace Mitcell, Ph.D, is president of Cal State Bakersfield.