Fall 2009

[News]

Budget Pressure

The financial challenges in California and nationwide have led to what officials are calling a fiscal emergency at Humboldt State University.

This summer, even as the campus prepared for its largest freshman class ever, it was scrambling to deal with an unprecedented budget shortfall of more than $12 million. Uncertainty about budget talks at the state Capitol made the challenge even greater.

But as difficult as the current year is, it’s just part of a more troubling story – an apparent retreat from California’s commitment to affordable higher education. It’s a trend that could threaten California’s economic growth for years to come.

Over the last decade, state funding for the California State University system (which includes Humboldt State) has been flat – falling well short of the rising costs of health benefits, insurance, technology and the like. This year, it’s worse. The state budget leaves the system in the hole by $564 million, with state general fund allocations dropping to $1.6 billion.

CSU campuses have been forced to start turning away qualified students. A year from now, the CSU expects overall enrollment to decline from about 250,000 to 210,000.

Meanwhile, student fees have jumped from $1,428 to $4,026 since 1999 (not including campus-specific fees, which at HSU are $1,009). That’s still relatively low by national standards, but three decades ago their parents were paying just $144 (or approximately $422 in today’s dollars).

Graph of CSU Full-Time Undergraduate Fees from Fall 1979-2009