Lack of funds closes doors

Timothy Sandoval

Sacramento State may declare a campus-wide enrollment impaction, which would close the door to many applicants because of lack of state funding.

Impaction came on the table when enrollment officials went through the thousands of applications for the 2010-11 academic year and found that enrollment could potentially exceed funding by 1,000 students.

According to state law, the university must accept all qualified applicants.Sacramento-area high school and community college graduation projections indicate that the number of applicants to Sac State will continue to increase in the coming years, said Edward Mills, vice president for enrollment management.

Projections for next year’s budget, however, indicate a 6 to 18 percent cut in funds. Mills estimated that Sac State could be more than $4 million short to fund the new students.

“The budget is going down at the same time that the demand to get into the school is spiraling upward,” said Joseph Sheley, Sac State provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Enrollment officials have not determined how many applicants will not be accepted.

By declaring impaction, the university would raise the GPA and SAT requirements for incoming freshmen and the GPA requirement for transfer students, Mills said. Officials have not determined how high the GPA and SAT standards will be raised will be raised.

Mills said Sac State would give priority to those in its local service region, which includes 10 surrounding counties. However, Sac State may have to reduce its service region to only the greater Sacramento region. This includes El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.

Ninety percent of Sac State students come from the current service region.

Ten other California State University campuses have already declared campus-wide impaction.

Many campuses also have impacted majors.

At Sac State, nursing, graphic design and interior design are already impacted. The College of Business Administration is also looking to declare impaction for 2010-11, Mills said.

Mills said he believes that by fall 2010, all of the larger CSU campuses will declare campus-wide impaction, which will affect Sac State.

“As other campuses restrict, even more numbers will be looking at Sac State,” Mills said. “If we are not impacted there is a large potential that they would all show up here.”

If Sac State declares impaction, students coming from across the state and abroad would have a harder time trying to get into Sac State because they would not have priority, Mills said.

“It’s a very unfortunate thing,” Mills said. “I am not in higher education to restrict students … but I think it’s what we have to do for at least a few years until the state sorts out the budget, and, I hope, fund higher ed again.”

The deadline to apply for impaction to the chancellor’s office is April 30. Specifics of the plan, like how high the GPA standards will be raised, will not be determined until December.

Sheley, Mills and Vice President for Student Affairs Lori Varlotta have made presentations about impaction to President Alexander Gonzalez’s Cabinet and the Faculty Senate, and will make a presentation to Associated Students Inc. board of directors today. The three will be giving more presentations throughout the month of April before drafting the impaction proposal.

“The idea is to consult in an authentic way, not just say, “Hey we told you so, bye,'” Sheley said. “We will make that deadline, and I think we will do it having a very informed discussion, and if people don’t know all the details, they will at least get the big picture choices.”

A few faculty members are concerned that the April 30 deadline is too close to have an informed opinion of the plan.

Margarita Berta-Ávila, associate professor of bilingual and multicultural education, said she thinks the presentations came to the Faculty Senate too close to the deadline.

“I feel really concerned being asked to make such a quick decision, a big decision, without really having everything laid out in front of us,” Berta-Ávila said. “And I know they can only lay out so much, but it’s quite concerning.”

Still, others believe that Sac State doesn’t have much of a choice.

“My impression is that if we don’t do it then students already here may have decreased access to classes and services,” said Wendy Buchan, professor of family and consumer sciences. “I think it could be beneficial in making sure that students can get more classes and services they need while they are here.”

Other faculty members have discussed program impaction, which would impact certain majors that are overflowing with students, as an alternative to campus-wide impaction.

Mills said he believes program impaction will not address the problem.

“Although I think it’s important for the provost and the faculty to look at program impaction, from a university standpoint it doesn’t lower the number of students; it just changes where they are,” Mills said. “Within campus-wide impaction, I think program impaction is important to make sure that we have a balanced approach and that all the students in different majors can get the services they need from their faculty.”

The university is also struggling to meet the mandated 10.8 percent reduction in enrollment for the 2010-11 school year. Mills said the university would likely have to impose unit caps and limit or close spring admissions to meet the reduction.The decision to apply for impaction is ultimately up to Gonzalez. The chancellor’s office will wither deny or accept the proposal.

“Impaction is a reality we must consider because the data strongly suggest that we would be enrolling more students than we have money to properly serve,” Gonzalez said in an e-mail to the campus.

Mills said he thinks it is likely that Sac State will become impacted.

“That’s because I am very aware of the alternatives,” Mill said. “It is my job now to make sure that people are informed about the alternatives so that they can make informed recommendations and choices.”

Timothy Sandoval can be reached at [email protected]