California budget cuts leave transfer students hanging

Justin Cooper
SDSU Daily Aztec

SAN DIEGO (U-WIRE) – A message from San Diego State to prospective transfer students: Come back next fall.

The state of California has slashed the education budget by 10 percent, a move that has universities such as SDSU and CSU San Marcos closing the door on transfer students for the spring of 2009.

Community college students who were expecting to attend SDSU this spring are now just spinning their wheels.

Ethan Singer, the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at SDSU said the problem is the result of not enough money and too little room. Singer said the changes were announced last February to give community college students as much advanced warning as possible.

“It is a combination of having (to) cut back enrollment to the budgeted level,” Singer said. “As we were overenrolled last year, and at the same time not receiving any enrollment growth funding for new enrollment. Our numbers had to be reduced significantly, and therefore to have the right sized classes in the fall, we could not also take new students in the spring.”

Despite the spring moratorium, the yearly overall enrollment of transfer students to SDSU has risen, not fallen. According to Singer, the Fall 2003 semester admitted 32,872 students, a total that has increased to 36,225 in Fall 2006 and 36,625 in Fall 2007.

The budget cuts are part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s controversial plan to close the state’s estimated $14.5 billion budget shortfall.

As California’s spending on state schools is slashed across the board, both state universities and community colleges are feeling the heat. Community colleges often decide to cut back on offered classes, meaning that it takes freshmen and sophomores longer to complete their transfer requirements.

At the same time, money for university classes also dwindles, which lowers the number of students accepted. The cutbacks are felt even more at community colleges because they receive less money from the state than universities do.

Samantha Austin, a 36-year-old nursing major at Southwestern College, has been on both ends of that problem. She was delayed in reaching her transfer requirements because of limited classes at SWC. This year, she met the requirements only to learn that SDSU would not be accepting spring admissions.

Austin is a single mother who depends on different grants for college such as Calworks, money that may now be in jeopardy because of the time-sensitive nature of the grants.

“It has just left me in a really bad a spot,” Austin said. “I’m on a time slot with my grants and financial aid. I don’t know what I am going to do honestly. If I don’t get my grants, I’m not going to be able to pay my rent.”

Options for students are sparse, but there are some, Mary Rider, the Transfer Coordinator at Grossmont College, said. The two options that students have are to take as many classes as possible at a community college and also, when applying, to have the right GPA for their major in order to meet SDSU’s transfer admission criteria.

SDSU is simply too crowded and too popular, Norma Cazares, Director of Counseling at SWC said. For that reason, community college students wishing to pursue their bachelor’s degrees while staying close to home are going to find stiff competition.

“The whole world wants to get into San Diego State,” Cazares said. “That makes things much more competitive, which impacts majors, which increases the criteria in order to meet the requirements for those majors. It’s the domino effect.”

Despite all the requirements, new local transfer students still have an advantage when applying to SDSU. In the past, transfer students would sign a Transfer Admission Guarantee that would ensure a transfer student a spot at SDSU. While there are no more contracts to sign, local students are still evaluated as T.A.G. students, according to Cazares.

Students can also be better prepared by arming themselves with better information, Cazares added. She has organized CSU application workshops and has tried to let students know about other options, such as private universities.

“Students need to think outside of that box,” Cazares said. “San Diego State knows that I say this. I tell my students, ‘You need to think outside of San Diego State.'”

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California budget cuts leave transfer students hanging